From education to employment

Government Scupper £53 Million Rethink of Deficient FE Structure in Depressed Borough

The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) has asked the Learning and Skills Council Sussex (LSC Sussex) to make significant changes to its planned shake up of post-16 education and training provisions in Hastings and Rother.

LSC Sussex, who administer and fund a programme of £190M post-16 education spending across the county, had submitted detailed proposals to the Secretary of State for Education and Skills under the Strategic Area Reviews (StARs) programme – part of the Governments three-year Success for All reform strategy for post”“16 learning and skills ““ to replace the present mix of school sixth forms, a general Further Education college (Hastings College of Arts and Technology) and a sixth form college (Bexhill College) with a single autonomous institution based on four sites in Hastings, Bexhill and Battle.

Replacement or Retention?

Jaqui Smith MP, Minister of State for Schools and 14″“19 Learners, has asked LSC Sussex to investigate how a modified proposal might retain sixth form provision at Helenswood School, William Parker School and Bexhill College ““ an intervention that has raised concerns about the £53M investment package earmarked for the project.

Unlike many boroughs in the south east, post-war Hastings has suffered comparatively high levels of social and economic deprivation. According to an Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) report, a quarter of the district’s adult population has poor levels of basic literacy and/or numeracy and only 36% of school leavers achieved at least five A*-C GCSEs in 2001 (comparing poorly with 50% for East Sussex and 48% nationally in the same academic year). Hastings is designated a Neighbourhood Renewal Area and an Education Action Zone with nearly 50% of school leavers failing to attain adequate qualifications to study advanced level courses.

Grave Concerns of LSC Sussex

Henry Ball, Executive Director of LSC Sussex, expressed grave concerns about the possible delay that any rethink might have upon addressing the clear deficiencies in the borough’s ability to provide effective post-16 and adult education: “While we respect the decision of the DfES, we are disappointed (that) these improvements for students and adult learners will be put on hold while we look at this further option.

“We believed ““ and the majority of schools and colleges agreed with us ““ that our proposal offered the right balance of choice, opportunity and accessibility for all students in the area. It also tackled below-average performance and would have reduced the number of students leaving the area all together to continue their sixth form education, and the significant numbers not continuing in education or training at all.”

LSC Sussex, who have until the end of September to respond to government’s proposed revisions, has stated that it is keen to ensure that the uncertainty hanging over post-16 education and training in the area can be overcome as swiftly as possible and will be urgently reviewing the amendments made to its proposals.

Michael Lloyd

Talk about the educational Battle of Hastings in the FE Blog

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