‘Lack of democracy’ on college closure plan

Published on: 05 May 2015

soundwell college

EFFORTS have begun to keep further education in Soundwell after the shock announcement from City of Bristol College that it will close the campus in September.
The hope is that the buildings, one of which opened only nine years ago, can be turned into a centre for health and social care training.
Parliamentary candidates and others criticised the college’s decision at a hustings meeting in Kingswood last month.
Labour hopeful Jo McCarron said it had “come right out of the blue”. She had learned of it from an email from a concerned parent while local councillors only found out when they read it in the newspaper.
Trades Union and Socialist Coalition candidate Richard Worth said: “This shows a lack of democracy. There was no consultation with the community at all.”
The Greens’ Cezara Nanu and UKIP’s Duncan Odgers said having further education in the area was important for raising aspirations and its loss would mean more disengaged young people.
The event was organised by the National Union of Teachers, whose regional officer Nina Franklin said the root of the problem was swingeing cuts to FE and sixth-form funding.
“It is very important that there is local community FE provision in an area like this. It makes so much more sense for local people,” she said.
Ms McCarron said that Soundwell was in an area of deprivation and some students would find it difficult to take two buses to get to other college sites.
She and Labour councillors Ian Boulton and Shirley Potts have met college leaders to ask them to think again.
The Staple Hill councillors said in a statement after the college made its announcement at the end of March: “We strongly oppose this and will do all we can to get the college to reconsider. Losing such an important facility for our young people is unthinkable.
“We will also be talking urgently to other local schools and colleges to ensure that our school leavers can still access the training they need and do not suffer the loss of courses or opportunities in our area.”
The college said the Soundwell Centre would close once its 1,800 students had finished their study at the end of this academic year, July 2015. It is understood it plans to sell the buildings.
All courses will be moved to other college centres, at Ashley Down, Hengrove Park, College Green and Parkway, which the college says offer “better accommodation, improved facilities and an enriched student experience”.
“We will be working with students and their parent/carers who are continuing their courses or who are joining us in September to ensure that they are able to travel to their new centre of study.
“Over the coming weeks we will be arranging tours for students to get to know their new centre in good time for the start of the next academic year,” a spokesman said.

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