Message from the Chair of Governors
19 February 2018
We have now received a report from the FE Commissioner team who conducted a Diagnostic Assessment of Kensington & Chelsea College in January. A copy of the report is available here: FE Commissioner Diagnostic Assessment Report
Amongst other things, the report recommends that the FE Commissioner conducts a new process to find a merger partner or partners for Kensington & Chelsea College.
The report was discussed at a meeting of the Governing Body on 5 February, where Governors deliberated both the merits of pursuing a new merger partner and the impact for the College of not proceeding with the planned merger with Ealing, Hammersmith & West London College (EHWLC).
This decision was weighed extremely carefully by the Governing Body. We discussed the short-term impact on our students and staff in terms of a further period of uncertainty and potential delays to the more rapid progress we all want to see in developing our curriculum offer, growing student numbers and delivering an improved teaching, learning and student experience. We also agreed that conducting a new process would be costly. Whilst the Department for Education is clear that they expect the College to fund the new merger process, the FE Commissioner team indicated that we might be eligible to bid for funds available to the College, post-merger, from the Restructuring Facility.
Following discussions with the Department for Education and the FE Commissioners, we concluded that there was more that we could have done to secure local community support for last year’s merger plans and that, ultimately, it would not have been in the best interests of the College’s students and staff to proceed in the face of such strong opposition from community groups. I don’t pretend that this was an easy decision. It was not. However, the only consideration that really matters to me and my colleagues on the Governing Body is taking decisions about the future of Kensington & Chelsea College that are in the best interests of our students and staff.
This means therefore that the merger with EHWLC will not happen and a new, Commissioner-led, ‘structure and prospects appraisal’ will commence shortly. The timetable for this would aim to see the selection of a merger partner or partners by May this year, with a possible date for a merger at the end of the year. The Governing Body was unanimous in supporting this decision and we welcome the support of the FE Commissioner team in leading the new process.
In the short-term our priorities are as follows:
• The short extension of contract that Elaine McMahon agreed before Christmas comes to an end on 23 February. We will be considering candidates to replace her as interim Principal with support from the FE Commissioner
• With the wind down of the shared-services agreement with EHWLC, there are a number of other critical vacancies in the College for which we are seeking interim appointments. It is not appropriate to seek permanent appointments for senior members of staff given that the College is seeking a merger
• Although there will be much to do to select a new partner/s, we want to ensure that the focus of the College’s day to day business is firmly on students, student success and in delivering high quality teaching and learning. This is a critical area where we need to make rapid progress and the Governing Body will continue to prioritise this
• With the EHWLC merger now halted, we can expect an Ofsted inspection shortly. There are still a number of issues that need addressing to strengthen our performance
• To revisit our financial forecasts for 2017/18 and 2018/19 to ensure that the financial impact of these decisions is fully transparent and budgeted for
In addition, the Board agreed to the following actions:
• To form a new advisory group to represent our communities in Kensington and Chelsea and engage them in the process of considering options for the future
• To appoint a Community Engagement lead to the staff with a specific brief to build relationships within the community and to consider new community provision and services that could be offered by the College
• To commission an independent review of the process surrounding the sale of the Wornington Road site to the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC) in 2016. RBKC have agreed to co-operate fully with such a review
• To continue our discussions with RBKC to secure a long lease on the Wornington Road building and to agree Heads of Terms for such a lease as soon as possible
The Board also received motions put forward by the Save Wornington Campaign and the UCU calling for the immediate resignations of both myself as Chair and Elaine McMahon as Principal. I took the opportunity to ensure that I still have the confidence of the Board in continuing as Chair of the Corporation and the Governing Body voted by a strong majority to confirm their confidence in my leadership. I have always seen my role to steer Kensington & Chelsea College to a secure and successful future so that students can access the courses they need to fulfil their aspirations. This continues to be my priority and I look forward to working with fellow governors, students, staff and all our stakeholders over the coming months as we undergo a new process to map that future.
Mary Curnock Cook
Chair of the Corporation
Wednesday 20th December 2017
On 18 December the Board of Kensington & Chelsea College met to consider the proposals to merge with Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College in the light of advice from Ministers following the short review of the merger conducted by Richard Atkins, the FE Commissioner. The advice was that the merger be paused to enable more time to finalise the arrangements for a long lease on the Wornington Road site in North Kensington and to engage further with community groups who have opposed the merger.
The KCC Board will also be working closely with EHWLC to agree a continuation of the existing shared service arrangements for a number of administrative and operational functions to ensure that staff and students are able to continue to participate in high quality teaching and learning while more permanent arrangements are revisited.
Wednesday 15th November 2017
The Corporations of KCC and EH&WLC have released the following report, detailing the findings of the public consultation. Thank you once again for your views.
Please click the link below to download:
Wednesday 8th November 2017
Following the Board meeting on 6th November 2017, the Corporation have released this document regarding the proposed merger with EHWLC. Please click the link below to download:
Thank you to everyone who participated in our online consultation survey. The consultation process has now closed and both Boards will review the findings and provide a written response.
Kensington and Chelsea College and Ealing, Hammersmith and West London’s College are seeking your views on the proposed merger.
Your views are very important to us. We look forward to receiving your feedback.
Elaine McMahon CBE Garry Phillips
Interim Principal & CEO of KCC CEO of EHWLC
- Merger Consultation Document (pdf)
Message from the Chair of Governors, Kensington & Chelsea College
Thank you all for coming to our event on 29th June. As promised at the meeting, we have below set out the key questions that were raised at the meeting and our responses. There may well be some issues that we haven’t captured fully so please let us know if there are areas where you want more information and we’ll ensure that these are covered at future events.
Mary Curnock Cook
WORNINGTON SITE & NEW BUILDING
1. Why was the Wornington Road site sold?
A. It is too large for the needs of the college into the foreseeable future and is in need of significant expenditure to not only repair the building but bring the facilities up to 21st century standards. The college did not have the funds to do this, nor could it justify doing so given that the site is under-utilised (we currently only use about 25% of available space). Furthermore, the deteriorating financial position of the college has meant that the sale brought in much-needed cash to settle debts and provide working capital.
2. How much was the Wornington site sold for?
A. £25,350,000 payable in three tranches. There is the scope for this figure to increase further if planning issues are resolved favourably and if the College vacates the site in 2018 rather than 2019.
3. Will the College return to the Wornington site? Is the new site less or more square feet in comparison to Wornington?
A. The College has the option to return to the Wornington Road site, to space designed and dedicated for its use. The agreement allows for up to 30,000 sq ft of space, which is approximately 60% of the current space. It is important to point out that the current site is underutilised and there would be plenty of scope for growth in the course provision offered, even in a reduced space.
4. When is the demolition of the Wornington site happening?
A. The initial planning anticipated that the development work would start some time after the College vacates, in late 2018 or 2019. This would be dependent on RBKC’s planning and development timescales.
5. How is the heavy machinery from the Jewellery Department going to be moved locally and accommodated in the new site with all the banging and noise when doing practical work?
A. This is something we would address with the developers – by planning it in from the outset we think this is manageable.
6. Are you aware that four college sites have gone from this Borough in the last 10 years?
A. Yes, four sites were closed. Two, which were also opened in this period, were directly related to a particular contract the college had but which was not renewed, and the other two were small sites leased from RBKC which were closed as cost-saving measures given the ongoing reductions in government funding.
7. Who says the Wornington site building is not fit for purpose?
A. This was, and remains, the opinion of the College. It certainly doesn’t compare to the facilities at other Colleges in the area and students have come to expect more modern facilities. Furthermore, the building is in poor condition and would require significant expenditure to rectify.
8. Is there a surveyor’s report, and does it show the Wornington site is not fit for purpose? Can this report be put on the website?
A. There is a report from an external firm of professional property advisors who advised on the sale. KCC did not consider a survey to be necessary at the time because the under-utilisation and property condition were self-evident. RBKC conducted a property survey for their own use but this would be of limited use as its purpose was not to inform a redevelopment proposal.
9. How is the Wornington land going to be divided up to the College and to housing, what percentage? As it is for community use, how is that going to pan out?
A. We have indicative plans from RBKC for the redevelopment of the site but these are subject to change. They include 30,000 sq ft of D1 space (available for the College). Questions as to the residential development plans for the site should be directed to RBKC.
The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) puts uses of land and buildings into various categories known as ‘Use Classes’. This Order is periodically amended, view details of the amendments. D1 is defined as Non-residential institutions – Clinics, health centres, crèches, day nurseries, day centres, schools, art galleries (other than for sale or hire), museums, libraries, halls, places of worship, church halls, law court. Non residential education and training centres.
10. In the sale of contract was it specified that the site/building should be for education or was that done away with in the contract of sale?
A. The contract specifies 30,000 sq ft of D1 space.
11. Why was the College sold without any consultation with staff, community or students?
A. The current management team has not been able to ascertain why there was no engagement about the disposal plans and, with the benefit of hindsight, considers that consultation at the time would have been advantageous. The college is now trying to re-engage in dialogue with interested stakeholders such as staff, students and the local community, and this Q&A forms part of that dialogue.
12. Don’t the views of the community matter, do the people here matter?
A. Yes, the views of the community do matter and this is why we are trying to open up channels of communication that enable us to hear those views. We would like as many community voices as possible to be heard.
13. Who authorised the sale of this land?
A. It was authorised by the College Corporation – i.e. the Governing Body of the College. The sale was also overseen by the Skills Funding Agency, which acts as the College’s regulator.
14. Why has the consultation period been scheduled for September when the Council are meeting in July to decide on regeneration? What will there be left to discuss in September if the crucial plans are already decided on in July?
A. The consultation intended for September relates to the merger with West London College (see below), rather than specifically to the development of the Wornington Road site. We are required by our regulators to consult formally on the merger proposals. Nonetheless, the two issues are related and the College intends to include options for the Wornington Road site and provision in North Kensington in the merger consultation document when it is produced.
15. Is the College in touch with any developers and are we involved in any of the meetings/discussions?
A. No, they have not been appointed yet – this is an RBKC matter at present.
16. How has the £25 million been spent?
A. Approximately £5 million has been used to pay off debts, cover operating deficits and provide working capital. The balance of approximately £20 million (plus) is available for reinvestment and indeed is earmarked as such in the College’s accounts.
17. Who owns the Wornington site?
A. It was owned by KCC and is now owned by RBKC.
18. How did you acquire the KCC Wornington site?
A. It was transferred to the College upon the incorporation of the College in 1992.
19. How can the community be consulted on whether the Wornington building will be demolished if it has already been decided by the Council?
A. The Council have not yet submitted planning applications and there may well be opportunities to engage with that process. Our own consultation will be focused on the type of provision we should be offering, together with our intentions for a modernised campus. We expect to have extensive dialogue with RBKC on the plans for the site.
20. Can an actual meeting take place with KCC and the Borough on the panel, with room for everyone to attend who wants to from the community and KCC staff?
A. We are not able to commit RBKC to specific consultation events but we certainly intend to continue our conversations with local residents, including through further open days and public meetings. Where appropriate we will invite RBKC to participate.
The incorporation of Further Education Colleges throughout England involved the transfer of the FE College assets from Local Authorities to independent Corporations responsible for individual Colleges, under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992.
21. How can you afford to build a new college if you are paying £25 million in debt?
A. There was only £5 million in debt and deficits to be covered – the balance of at least £20 million is available for us to reinvest, which is our intention. We may also be able to access further grant funding now that we have funds of our own to contribute.
22. Why is there no fight or enthusiasm to keep the site?
A. The contract to sell the site was completed in 2016. If the College is to seek an alternative that in some way retains ownership of all or some of the site, it would need a way of making that affordable. We believe there is now an opportunity to open a new conversation with RBKC and others over the plans for a campus in North Kensington and we are seeking to do so.
1. Is this a takeover of a smaller college by a larger college?
A. No, it is a merger with parity of esteem on both sides. The legal form of the merger is that WLC will take over the business of KCC but this is a commonly used mechanism to help ensure a successful, smooth transition and the nature of the merger as experienced by the colleges themselves is that of mutual agreement. There will still be a ‘Kensington & Chelsea College’ but it will be part of a larger corporate entity, namely West London Colleges.
2. What happened with the City Lit merger?
A. Both City Lit and KCC governing bodies reviewed the proposed merger and concluded that this was not the best option for either of them at the time. One reason is that City Lit is a ‘Specialist Designated Institution’ with an unusual status that allows it to run more than 90% of its provision as non-accredited. KCC on the other hand, is a ‘normal’ Further Education College with accredited qualifications. This means that the two institutions are quite different and it was not clear how these differences would be accommodated in a single entity. The decision not to proceed was made with the best interests of students, staff and the community in mind.
3. What is the likelihood of this merger?
A. We are very positive about the merger, as is WLC. Both governing bodies are fully engaged with the process and joint meetings are commencing this month (July 2017). We believe there are real benefits to the merger, in terms of what we can deliver for students and the local economy, and securing this into the long term future, and we look forward to presenting this to you fully in the Autumn.
STAFF, COURSES & COMMUNITY
1. There is a concern about KCC staff being made redundant in the following departments, Hair & Beauty, Maths, Apprenticeships and Business, will these staff members be coming to the new site or will they be losing their jobs?
A. The currently proposed redundancies are part of the annual cycle of business planning where unfortunately we have to respond to the pattern of applications in certain course areas. In contrast to the redundancies, we are increasing the number of groups in Accounting and Access to Higher Education at the North Kensington site. This is quite unrelated to the future of the site or the proposed merger – there is simply not sufficient demand from potential students to continue running some courses.
2. There are banners around the College saying we are expanding but there are course closures in September. Why are the banners there? How are we expanding?
A. The course provision overall will be expanding as we are able to move into modernised facilities in the long term. Even in the short term, in September, there are planned increases in Accounting and Access to Higher Education in Kensington. In the short term, some courses have been closed where enrolments have been very low or where there are persistent quality issues.
3. Why is KCC unable to do Apprenticeships?
A. The Skills Funding Agency requires that all apprenticeship providers should have an Ofsted grading of 3 or better. KCC’s apprenticeship provision was judged to be unsatisfactory, i.e. grade 4 and therefore we are barred from offering new apprenticeship programmes at present. One of the advantages of the proposed merger with WLC is that we will be working with them to ensure that there is a good apprenticeship offer in the local area.
4. The Management Team said the College space will be reduced, can we give a projected percentage of the number of courses that will run?
A. The key statistic is not the number of courses but the number of enrolments. We are anticipating the same number of enrolments overall in 2017-18 as in 2016-17. In addition to the planned growth in Access to HE and Accountancy we have been in discussion with the Department of Work and Pensions to provide bespoke provision at the Wornington Road campus for unemployed residents. This provision is about to start (July 2017) and is expected to grow.
5. Why did we cut Fine Arts in Wornington when the courses were full and then moved it to Hortensia which is far for people in this area?
A. This decision was taken some time ago. It was considered better to consolidate an offer in Chelsea than to discontinue it altogether, which would have been the only viable alternative, given the costs of running duplicate provision on different sites.
6. If we are not letting Hair and Beauty students apply how do you know how many students want to continue or apply?
A. Potential students have been allowed to apply and at the present time we have too few to consider running courses in this area. Patterns in previous years tell us that we do not experience sudden increases in applications but we will continue to monitor the situation until the consultation period with staff has completed.
7. If I don’t know what is available how can I be applying?
A. All courses are available to apply online at www.kcc.ac.uk.
8. Why are we making so many redundancies now when we are going to a merger? Wouldn’t it make sense to keep those posts?
A. We are not making a large number of redundancies. We have discussed redeployment opportunities with WLC. The two colleges remain legally separate for the time being but if WLC are able to offer employment to any redundant staff from KCC they will do so. If the merger proceeds then there will be an advantage to staff in working for an enlarged college with greater flexibility in its course offering and greater potential for redeployment.
9. Is it too late for the College to begin more discussions and engagement with the community?
A. Whilst we regret the lack of communication to date, the meeting on 29th June was intended to be the start of a new, more open conversation and that this would continue with other events and channels of communication.
10. Your Board of Governors tried to blame the lack of student numbers on the group standing outside trying to save the College, what do you have to say about that?
A. The college received a number of confused reports from current and potential students who had received the “Save Wornington College” leaflets who then were worried that the college was closing – which it was not. This was affecting applications for college courses. It is important to distinguish any campaign to save the building from any message that implies the college is closing. Because of the confusion being caused to students, we did ask the campaigners to come in to talk to us rather than leaflet outside the college. The college does acknowledge that its own lack of communication regarding plans for the site did leave a vacuum which did nothing to allay the confusion and therefore would have played its own part. We feel it is important to be clear that the college remains open for business in North Kensington, indeed it hopes to expand, whatever decision is made about the precise location of that provision.
11. What type of marketing has the College done?
A. The College uses a mixture of marketing and advertising and has increased expenditure in this area. Lately, there has been a move to more online digital advertising which is cost-effective, measurable and easier to adapt over time if need be. There has been less traditional advertising because this is generally found to be less successful in recruiting students, pound for pound. Nonetheless, some traditional advertising and marketing continues. Because the online marketing is targeted at those who have already shown an inclination towards college or a subject area, it is more likely to be seen by those people and less by those with a more general interest. At the event on 29th June we understand that some in the community would welcome an increase in traditional course leaflets and the like and this is now being considered.
1. What happened with the last Chair?
A. The last Chair tendered his resignation for personal family reasons.
2. How many people on the Board live locally, understand the area and have the expertise to drive the College forward?
A. Currently the Board members are chosen for their skills and expertise rather than their home address. Board members need to consider the best interests of all students and our student cohort not only includes those living within Kensington and Chelsea but also a significant number that travel to the college to benefit from some specialist skills of our staff, particularly in the Creative Arts. However, we regularly review the skills and expertise of the board members and if we were to find a suitable candidate with skills that would benefit the college and lived locally to the college that would be of particular interest to us.
3. Why is someone with Mary Curnock Cook’s background now Chair of Governors for such a small college?
A. We are delighted to have Mary join us as Chair of Governors at such an important time. All Governors, Chair included, give their time freely. Mary has had a commitment to education causes throughout her career and is pleased to be able to support KCC amongst her other commitments.
4. What will the Consultation be about?
A. The consultation expected in the autumn will be about the proposal to merge with WLC but it will include the vision for the enlarged college, including the commitment to provision in North Kensington.
5. Are you a Trust?
A. The College is not a trust, but a Further Education College, which is incorporated as a company by act of parliament. It is governed by a Corporation Body comprising a Board of Governors and is regulated by the Skills Funding Agency.
6. What message are you sending to the community?
A. We are here for the long term to serve the community, but the current funding regime means we do need to make difficult choices and we would like you to be involved as we do that. For too long, we have not been listening but there is a real opportunity for us all to engage in a constructive dialogue about our future.
7. Why hasn’t this Q&A happened well before?
A. There has been a lot of uncertainty about our plans and a number of changes in the management team and governing body. Some of that uncertainty still exists but before our plans become too well formulated, we want to hear what the community has to say. By opening up before any formal consultation process begins, we hope to begin to improve relations and improve the proposals that we bring to you – and then in the formal consultation period we can refine those proposals further.
8. Are you prepared to convene another meeting with the community to discuss these issues?
A. Yes, we plan to hold another event at a bigger venue so that everybody has a chance to state their views and ask questions. This will probably take place after the summer
North Kensington plans – thank you
We are very grateful to those who attended our event on June 29 to discuss our future in North Kensington.
Kensington and Chelsea College has been an important feature of people’s lives in the borough for many years and we heard loud and clear the strength of feeling and passion in the community for the college. As we mentioned at the meeting, we intend this to be the start of a new conversation with the community and we are determined that this engagement will be positive as the college continues to contribute to the community for many years to come.
We will be responding to the detailed questions which were asked in due course – and will publish those responses on our website for the benefit of everyone, including those who were unable to attend our event.
Meanwhile, we would like to assure you that the governing body’s position is very clear. We are fully committed to ensuring the people of North Kensington continue to have access to good quality local education and training. This is a red line for us – and is a condition of the proposed merger.
Thank you again for your comments and we look forward to continuing this dialogue over the coming months.
Merger plan announcement
Ealing Hammersmith and West London’s College has announced that it is entering into a merger with Kensington & Chelsea College to broaden the opportunities available to learners and help meet the future needs of employers across the region.
Building on the key strengths of each institution, the move will ensure students benefit from a wider choice of courses and apprenticeships. The newly-formed college will be in the strongest position to be able to deliver the high standards of education and skills that local employers want in their future workforce. Both colleges would retain their existing sites and name.
Garry Phillips, chief executive of West London’s College, said:
“We are truly excited about the benefits a partnership with Kensington and Chelsea College will bring for both students and businesses in the area.
“The combined strengths of these two organisations will offer students an exciting spectrum of educational and training opportunities – including the chance to progress on to higher level apprenticeships and degree courses. This will prepare students for the very best chance of career success, help secure the future of further education across London and make a significant contribution to the economic development of our region.”
Tony Alderman, chair of the governing body at West London’s College, said: “This partnership will ensure that we can work across West London to develop the essential skills that will feed the growth of this dynamic region. Students from the two colleges will have access to the best teaching available, whether they want to continue in further education, take up a work-based learning opportunity, go on to university or leave college ready for the world of work.”
Michele Sutton CBE, principal of Kensington and Chelsea College, said: “We are delighted to be able to announce the agreement to enter into this merger with a very strong, well-respected and successful neighbouring college. This announcement is the result of a long and careful process to ensure the best future for students of all ages in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, ensuring good provision in the borough while at the same time drawing on the resources of a larger organisation. We are looking forward to working closely together as this merger takes shape over the coming months and ensuring a smooth transition.”
Mary Curnock Cook OBE, chair of Kensington and Chelsea College, said: “A merger will provide real benefits for Kensington and Chelsea College students and the communities we serve. Kensington and Chelsea College and West London’s College (WLC) both have significant strengths which together will deliver more learning opportunities and a better student experience. Our Board is looking forward to working with the governing body at WLC to support the success of this merger.”
There will be a period of public consultation with the newly-merged institution expected to launch in January 2018.
About West London’s College
Located across four main sites, West London’s College is the leading college in west London. A further and higher education college offering both part-time and full-time courses, it educates around 20,000 students. It is rated good by Ofsted and recently won a national TES FE Award for outstanding use of technology to improve teaching, learning and assessment.
About Kensington & Chelsea College
Kensington and Chelsea College, based on two sites in the borough, offers further and higher education, full-time and part-time.