Wednesday, 22 September 2021

College staff face the chop

Henley College, Deanfield

UP to 66 jobs are at risk and courses could be scrapped at The Henley College.

Principal Satwant Deol has warned that redundancies may be necessary to reverse a £1.5 million budget deficit.

A statutory consultation period will finish next Friday and notices of dismissal could be issued from next month onwards.

Mrs Deol broke the news to staff in a letter which has been seen by the Henley Standard.

It says the college is the subject of an “early intervention strategy” by the Government’s Education and Skills Funding Agency.

This comes into effect when the agency believes there is a risk of financial failure based on a college’s current standing or forecast performance. It will then help to identify ways of reversing the situation.

The college says 48 out of 131 teaching posts and 14 out of 30 support posts are at risk, representing the equivalent of 40.7 full-time jobs. These include 16 programme leaders, all three assistant programme leaders and all three lead tutors, although the college proposes creating eight new curriculum leader posts which would initially be offered to existing programme leaders and lead tutors.

Twenty-four out of 105 teachers could also go, meaning a number of courses may no longer be offered.

These include German, which could lose its teaching support assistant. No other courses are named. Four teaching staff who work at the college through an agency could also go.

There are also plans to reduce the fee remission scheme in which certain students, such as those on part-time courses, may claim back a percentage of their tuition costs based on their age group.

Two new senior tutor posts and six regular tutor posts could be created and these would be available to teachers.

Meanwhile, two out of six library assistants could go, which could affect Wednesday evening opening times.

Two out of four receptionists’ jobs are at risk, as are one of two marketing support roles and two of three database analysts.

The college could also lose three of its security officers as their role is covered by its estates technicians, of whom one more could be hired. Four out of 12 trainers or assessors in its Henley Training Company division could go, reducing coverage on the childcare and hairdressing courses.

Most of those affected would finish by the end of August.

The college would offer voluntary redundancy and says it would “seek to offer suitable alternative employment” where possible.

If compulsory lay-offs are needed, the college will consult on whether selection should be by interview or “objective” criteria.

Mrs Deol, who was appointed in late 2016, said the agency expected the college to eliminate its deficit within a “reasonable” timeframe and it had set a target of two years.

She said failing to do so could result in a formal notice of intervention in which its further education commissioner would conduct a formal assessment of the college’s capacity to improve.

The commissioner could replace members of the leadership team, impose conditions or restrictions on funding, appoint observers to the board of directors or even order closure.

Mrs Deol said the college was falling back on its reserves due to a reduction in government funding for students aged 16 to 18 over the past five years.

It had also suffered a loss of income from the Henley Training Company due to the loss of “significant” sub-contracting business and a “failure to hit growth targets”.

It had also seen an increase in staff costs due to “harmonisation” of employment terms as well as increases to the amount employers must pay towards pensions and National Insurance.

Last year the college tried to tackle the problem by restructuring its senior and middle management and reducing other costs such as transport.

Mrs Deol wrote: “We look forward to your constructive engagement in the consultation process in order to secure ways of moving forward that ensure the long-term sustainability of the college.”

A scollege spokeswoman said the college had seen a funding cut of around 12 per cent per head since 2010 so it was supporting the national campaign to increase funding for education nationwide. She said: “The impact of the funding changes has been mitigated to an extent by additional financial support during a transition period together with the recent increase in student numbers at The Henley College against a falling 16 to 18 demographic.

“However, we cannot sustain a situation where costs continue to rise while funding remains either the same or decreases, so we are working closely with the Education and Skills Funding Agency to make the changes needed to balance our budget while maintaining the high quality of our provision and ensuring it meets the needs of our students and the wider community.

“Our proposals are designed to ensure financial stability without undermining the broad course offer that we provide and the quality of our programmes, including our varied and wide-ranging enrichment offers.

“Inevitably, there are fluctuations in demand for some courses and our proposals reflect that.

“There will be changes in the structure of the college as we position ourselves to deliver new government initiatives, such as T-levels alongside our A-level and vocational programmes.

“A fresh approach to tutorials will allow us to strengthen individual support and soft skills development for students as well as providing exciting job roles in our support team.”

In December, the college announced plans to build a £3 million science, technology, engineering and mathematics centre. It would initially be part of the existing Deanfield campus but the college ultimately wants a new, purpose-built centre and could sell land to fund the development.

It has employed Peter Marsh Consulting, of Winchester, to carry out a review of its assets and plans to consult the public.

The project could be funded from existing resources or through partnerships with outside bodies.

Henley MP John Howell, who attended a meeting at the college on Friday to discuss its future, said: “Its plans for expansion are particularly adventurous and show that the college is reaching out to secure a proper future for itself.

“I looked at the proposals and spoke to one of the people running the apprenticeship scheme and I’m very happy to help promote them.

“I was looking at ways I can help put the college in touch with companies that can help them develop so I do not believe these redundancies are unmitigated bad news. There is a lot to be positive about.”

In 2011, the college announced it would have to cut an estimated £1 million from its budget because of a reduction in government funding.

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