DUDLEY College has agreed to pay over £500,000 to the Education and Skills Funding Agency thanks to a data blunder, which has also seen the college excluded from this year's national achievement rate tables.

The college will pay £504,000 to the Education and Skills Funding Agency (EFSA) after a review of the late withdrawal of apprentices and work placed learners in 2015/16 and 2016/17.

Concerns were raised about the late withdrawals by EFSA in December 2018, leading to accountancy firm RSM carrying out an advisory audit conducted in agreement with the Agency.

The advisory audit was completed in January and RSM reported their findings to the College’s Audit Committee and ESFA in March 2019.

The audit found that the college had a 'poor system tracking and monitoring the continued activity of apprentices and adult education budget (AEB) learners where delivery is offsite'.

Consequently, funding was over claimed for adult education budget learners and apprentices as withdrawals were not 'actioned in a timely manner to ensure funding was returned in the correct year', according to a statement on the college's website.

However, the audit did acknowledge that the college is 'performing significantly above the national rate in all areas', even when recalculations for the missing withdrawals from the College are taken into account.

Lowell Williams, chief executive office of Dudley College of Technology, apologised for the mistake and added he was 'grateful' that the EFSA brought the subject to the college's attention.

He said: "There’s no question that the College is at fault in this matter. The management of large work based learning programmes, delivered off site on a national basis, is complex, but it is our responsibility to get it right and we didn’t."

He said that the £504k payout represents less than 1% of the college's total funding claim in these years and does not have any 'material impact' on the college's finances.

He added that the all rates as published on the college’s website are accurate, with achievement rates for apprentices 'exceptionally high' at 80.7% in 2016/17 and 77.2% in 2017/18.

Mr Williams added: "In a wider sense I recognise the reputational damage caused by these errors to the College, our stakeholders and the wider sector. I apologise for these mistakes."