A final decision about the future of Newton Rigg has been announced.
The final element of the Further Education Commissioner-led Newton Rigg Strategic Review has concluded that it had been unable to identify an organisation to continue delivering sustainable land based education at the campus, and that Askham Bryan College should continue with finding a buyer for the site.
The review identified that most provision currently delivered at Newton Rigg can be provided in Cumbria by other post-16 FE providers. In addition, other arrangements to ensure the continuity of land based provision in the area are being developed.
The review steering group’s recommendation was made during its final meeting on Friday.
Askham Bryan College’s governing body subsequently accepted the recommendation at its meeting yesterday.
Currently, there are 536 learners based at Newton Rigg, comprising 440 further education students and 96 apprentices and 117 staff.
Tim Whitaker, chief executive officer and principal of Askham Bryan College, said: “We understand the strength of feeling for Newton Rigg amongst our students, staff and the local and wider community and regret the upset that the campus closure and job losses will cause. We will continue to support our students and staff during this difficult time.
“Whilst it was very disappointing that the Strategic Review didn’t receive a sustainable option for Newton Rigg campus, we welcome the plans for the preservation of land based provision in Cumbria.
“We will support and work with those involved in these plans, to ensure that current students and future applicants interested in land based courses have a smooth transition.
“We have always been clear that Askham Bryan College would not deliver educational provision at Newton Rigg Campus from July 2021, advising our students, staff and local community when the governing body made its final decision in July 2020.
“The strategic review has been a separate, comprehensive process that we have fully supported.”
Jo Lappin, chief executive of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership said: “We are obviously very disappointed that a solution for continued provision at the Newton Rigg campus could not be achieved.
“This is despite the best efforts of the Further Education Commissioner working to support the interested parties to develop compliant bids.
“We are reassured that alternative provision will be available to ensure that young people can continue to access land-based provision and we welcome the opportunity to work with the new organisations’ providing this.
“Clearly, the local enterprise partnership is also committed to working with any potential buyers to develop alternative employment opportunities on the strategically important Newton Rigg site, as this will help support both Eden and Cumbria’s economic recovery.”
The Newton Rigg Strategic Review has been co-ordinated and chaired by the Further Education Commissioner (FEC) team in conjunction with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), Eden District Council, Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership and Askham Bryan College.
The aim of the Newton Rigg Strategic Review, which began in June 2020, was to promote the opportunity and test the ability of any interested party to fund and deliver a detailed business plan and proposals to deliver high quality further education at Newton Rigg Campus.
The Newton Rigg Strategic Review concluded its initial work on December 17th, 2020. Askham Bryan College’s governing body were informed that neither of the bidding parties were able to meet the required criteria to secure the long-term success of a potential new college or provider for students in the future.
A final element was then announced in December, after a request was subsequently made to, and accepted by, Askham Bryan College’s governing body, that further work with the parties be undertaken early in 2021.
The steering group set a new deadline for this final element to re-submit bids and gave further briefings to interested parties to support how they could meet the criteria successfully in their re-submissions.
Askham Bryan College is one of 11 independent specialist land-based colleges in England and has six campuses in the North of England including Newton Rigg.
Since the College purchased Newton Rigg campus in 2011, it said it had invested considerable funds and absorbed financial losses since then.
Due to demographic, financial and recruitment challenges, that Askham Bryan College has previously shared with students, staff and other stakeholders, it said the campus was not financially sustainable.