The National Enterprise Academy (NEA), an educational charity set up by businessman and BBC Dragons’ Den star Peter Jones, has denied fresh claims that it is struggling financially.
The Mail on Sunday reported yesterday that The Manchester College has severed ties with the NEA amid concerns about low student numbers at the academy and its financial viability.
This comes after Tom Bewick, an associate of Jones, resigned in May as the NEA's chief executive after just a week in the job. Upon quitting, he expressed concerns about financial mismanagement at the charity and its use of public grants.
However, the NEA denied that the Manchester campus is closing for financial reasons, saying instead that it had always been “an interim home” for the NEA in the north-west and that the two-year lease on the premises was coming to “a natural end” on 31 July.
It also said that a replacement location had already been found at Oldham College, which would be welcoming students this September.
The NEA was set up by Jones in September 2009 to offer business training to 16 to 19-year-olds within The National Skills Academy framework. Operating from seven sites around the country, it offers a BTEC diploma in enterprise and entrepreneurship backed by companies like Orange and Grant Thornton.
In a statement, the NEA said that rather than struggling, it is planning for growth: “This autumn 14 new colleges will begin Peter Jones’ Enterprise Academy courses around the UK as part of a major expansion of our activities.
“The Mail on Sunday’s inaccurate and misleading reporting will not deter our work in the real world of preparing a new generation of enterprising young people to help this country in the serious task of economic recovery.”
Bewick claimed last month that the NEA was in danger of running out of funds and that spending up to £9 million of taxpayer money on the not-for-profit academy was "hard to justify" because it was failing to produce expected results.
The NEA described these as “false and defamatory allegations that misstate the real facts and make a number of unfounded claims”. It also said it would look into a possible legal action.
Following Bewick’s claims, the Skills Funding Agency carried out a formal investigation into its public funding of the NEA. It reported “that no evidence was found" to support the allegations that the NEA wasn't deserving of its funding.