Newton Rigg Review FAQs
Newton Rigg Review, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Updated June 25th 2020
Please see a list of questions and answers about the latest developments at Newton Rigg. To read our latest announcement, please visit: https://www.askham-bryan.ac.uk/the-college/newton-rigg-review.
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What is the Newton Rigg Review?
Askham Bryan College’s governing body asked the Further Education Commissioner, an advisor based at the Department for Education, to lead an independent review of educational provision at Newton Rigg Campus in Penrith.
The review explored educational provision at Newton Rigg and across the wider region. Regional organisations that support education and the economy, and other stakeholders, in Cumbria have been involved in the Newton Rigg Review.
Courses are continuing as planned for the next academic year 2020/21.
What was the aim of the review?
The review sought to analyse educational provision at Newton Rigg and across Cumbria, to establish whether there is a need for college provision in the general location of the campus and, if so, how this could be best delivered in the future.
The review was completed in May 2020 and the FE Commissioner provided a report of the findings to Askham Bryan College’s governing body so that it could make informed and evidence-based decisions about future provision offered at Newton Rigg Campus.
What has Askham Bryan College’s governing body decided following the review?
After a detailed consideration of the findings, the College’s governing body decided, on May 21st 2020, in principle to close Newton Rigg in July 2021.
This is subject to the outcome of a statutory consultation process with staff and the trade unions, which will take a minimum of 45 days.
The governing body will make a final decision, on whether the campus will close or not next summer, once the statutory consultation process with staff and the trade unions has concluded.
Is the rest of Askham Bryan College affected?
To clarify, these proposals only affect our Newton Rigg Campus in Penrith, Cumbria. Askham Bryan College has six campuses in total at York, Newton Rigg (Penrith), Middlesbrough, Saltaire, Newcastle-Gateshead and Wakefield.
How many learners are studying at Newton Rigg currently?
Around 888 learners are based at Newton Rigg. They include 667 further education students, the majority of whom are enrolled on one-year programmes, and 221 apprentices.
What courses are offered there?
Courses currently provided include agriculture, gamekeeping, animal and equine management, forestry, horticulture and agricultural engineering.
The campus also offers general further education courses such as uniformed public services, sport, hairdressing and beauty therapy, childhood studies and health and social care.
Are courses continuing at Newton Rigg next year?
Yes, courses are continuing for the next academic year 2020/21 as planned.
When would Newton Rigg close?
The decision in principle is that Newton Rigg would close at the end of the next academic year in July 2021.
This proposal is subject to a formal minimum 45-day consultation process with staff and the trade unions, which started on May 21st 2020, as well as individual staff consultations.
The governing body will make a final decision once the statutory consultation process with staff and the trade unions has concluded.
As soon as the governing body’s decision is confirmed, we will be in contact with our students and applicants in order to support their decisions on study options; it is anticipated this will happen by the end of July 2020.
These decisions are very difficult ones. The College regrets putting staff at risk of redundancy, understands the strength of feeling about Newton Rigg and will do all it can to support staff and students at this difficult time.
Why has this decision been taken?
The review has confirmed that Newton Rigg is not financially viable from the College’s perspective and would require ongoing investment to keep pace with industry skills.
The review identified the following challenges:
• Demographic challenges: The College faces low population density in the rural location of Cumbria, and future low demographic growth of 16 to 18-year-olds.
• Student recruitment: Over the longer term, this is falling with insufficient local demand for specialist land-based provision, compounded by the declining demographics.
• Financial losses: As a result of the above factors, Newton Rigg has an annual operating deficit of around £1 million and lacks a sustainable business model due to declining student numbers and demographics.
• Estates reinvestment: In order to keep pace with the latest land based sector skills needs, the estate needs around £20 million capital investment.
Given the current economic climate, and the fact that no capital or revenue funding is available, the College has no other option but to propose closing the facility in July 2021.
Ultimately, it’s in the best interests of Cumbrian learners to attend a thriving college campus. The review has indicated the size of the challenge to achieve this at Newton Rigg.
When did the College inform students, and parents and carers?
Askham Bryan College emailed students, apprentices, parents and carers, and applicants, on May 21st 2020, informing them of the review decision, before informing the news media and publishing an announcement on the College website.
The College also previously emailed students, parents and carers, and applicants, informing them of the review before it commenced in February 2020.
What will happen to the staff at Newton Rigg?
There are 117 staff at Newton Rigg affected. A statutory consultation process, which will take a minimum of 45 days, with staff and the trade unions commenced on May 21st 2020.
Regrettably, the majority of staff at Newton Rigg are at risk of redundancy. The College will do all it can to support staff at this difficult time.
What will happen to Newton Rigg students?
Some students are due to finish their studies this summer. Those learners who want to progress and complete the next academic year 2020/21 will be able to do so as planned.
The College is in positive discussions with other education providers across the region to ensure that progression opportunities beyond July 2021 are available for Cumbrian students.
Students have been offered support if they wish to explore changing their options.
What will happen to apprenticeships?
We are continuing recruitment for apprenticeships for 2020/2021 as planned at Newton Rigg campus.
If a final decision is taken to close Newton Rigg campus from July 2021, we would explore an alternative location for the ‘off the job’ training element based in Cumbria.
What will happen to Newton Rigg applicants for September 2020?
Applications are being accepted as usual for the next academic year 2020/21. The College has written to applicants informing them of the latest developments and outlining individual options specific to the course they’ve applied for.
Applicants have been offered support if they wish to explore changing their options. The College has written to applicants informing them of the latest developments.
As soon as the governing body’s decision is confirmed, we will be in contact again with our students and applicants in order to support confirming their options; it is anticipated this will happen by the end of July 2020.
If applicants are planning on continuing to study at Newton Rigg campus beyond the 2020/21 academic year, this would not be possible if a final decision is taken to close the campus in July 2021.
For courses, where the same provision is offered at Askham Bryan College’s York campus, learners may be able to progress on to further study following a successful interview and subject to place availability.
Alternatively, learners may wish to explore other options available at other colleges regionally.
The College is having positive discussions with other education providers across the region to ensure that progression opportunities beyond July 2021 are available for Cumbrian students.
Can Newton Rigg be saved from being earmarked for closure next summer?
During discussions with various groups from Cumbria over the last few weeks, there has been a high level of support expressed for Newton Rigg from various Cumbrian organisations and groups.
Askham Bryan College would welcome working with these groups over the next couple of months, if they wish to explore how they could deliver a Cumbrian-based solution for Cumbrian students should the campus close next summer - pending the outcome of the staff and trade union consultation process.
Is there an update on that?
Yes, a new strategic review specifically exploring proposals for the future potential use of Newton Rigg Campus will get underway in July 2020.
Since the College’s governing body announced in May 2020 that it had taken the difficult decision, in principle, to stop delivering education and training at Newton Rigg from July 2021, several interested parties have approached the College with proposals for the future use of the site.
As a result of these approaches, the Further Education Commissioner (FEC), Education and Skills Funding Agency, (ESFA) and the College’s governing body have decided to undertake a strategic review of the proposals so that the merits of each one can be fully explored.
How is the FEC’s Strategic Review different to its previous Newton Rigg Review?
The strategic review will specifically explore proposals and expressions of interest from various parties for the future potential use of Newton Rigg. The focus of the previous Newton Rigg Review was educational provision at the campus and in the local area.
Who will coordinate the strategic review?
The strategic review will be coordinated by the Further Education Commissioner’s team and begin in July 2020 through an assigned steering group. It aims to ensure a formal process is followed in line with Department for Education policy on College Oversight Support and Intervention (April 2019).
The Further Education Commissioner’s team will co-ordinate all interest and update involved parties on the various stages of the review. Expressions of interest will be invited from interested parties during the summer and will be assessed against set criteria over the summer period.
What are the objectives of the strategic review?
The objectives of the strategic review are to promote the opportunity and test the ability of any interested party to fund and deliver their detailed business plan and proposals to take on Newton Rigg campus so that it can continue to deliver high quality further education for the local area.
When will it be completed?
Expressions of Interest will be invited from interested parties during the summer and will be assessed against set criteria over the summer period.
- If no parties meet the ‘Expressions of Interest’ criteria, then the review process is likely to complete by the end of August.
- If parties do successfully meet the ‘Expressions of Interest’ criteria, then a detailed business plan and proposal bid would need to be developed and submitted during the autumn term. The FEC team plan to conclude the full review process for any bids put forward by early December 2020, with the outcomes subsequently presented to Askham Bryan College’s governing body, so that any potential transfer of ownership could take place in time for the beginning of September 2021.
Does the strategic review affect the staff and trade union consultation process?
No. The decision in principle to close Newton Rigg Campus remains in place, and the consultation with 117 staff affected and the trade unions, which began on May 21st 2020 and is anticipated to take at least 45 days, is continuing. Askham Bryan College’s process is unaffected by the FEC’s Strategic Review of proposals from interested parties.
A final decision on whether Askham Bryan College will stop providing educational provision at the campus in July 2021, will be made following the completion of the statutory consultation process involving staff and the trade unions. The final decision, by the governing body, is due to be taken in July 2020.
Will there be a public consultation about Newton Rigg?
No. A statutory consultation process started on May 21st 2020 that specifically involves Newton Rigg staff, who are at risk of redundancy, and the trade unions. This is not the same as a public consultation process; it does not involve members of the public.
Why are you proposing to close next summer rather than this summer?
Subject to the outcome of the staff and trade union consultation, closing the campus in a year’s time would enable students who have started courses with us to progress and complete an additional academic year.
It also enables a transition period and time for staff to prepare for the future. The College’s governing body were clear that they wanted to delay a closure for one academic year, despite having an option to close by September 2020, to protect the best interest of students over the coming year.
Has the College considered any other options?
The College has explored other options but none so far can address the issue that the campus is not financially viable and would need significant long-term investment in future.
As previously explained, the earmarked closure for July 2021 ensures the best interests of learners by providing them with a further academic year to complete their studies.
It also provides an opportunity for a solution from other groups and a longer time period for staff to plan for the future.