From education to employment

LSC plans to merge two colleges are challenged.

Plans to merge to St Vincents College and Fareham College, both in South Hampshire are creating considerable opposition.

The Government quango, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) wants the two colleges to merge creating a £60m supercollege which would open in 2010.

The LSC claims that the merger would offer more choice, improve qualifications and staff training.

But there are serious concerns that the merger would damage the quality of post-16 education in the area. St Vincents college claim the move flies in the face of government policy about Post-16 education.

Colin Farmery, Liaison and Marketing officer at St. Vincents said: “The merger is not in the interests of the students, it will reduce the quality, choice and diversity of education in the area.”

St Vincents College maintains they would only agree to the merger if a brand new college was built. Mr Farmery said: “We would want a brand new college building, on a brand new site but it is looking extremely doubtful that this will happen”.

The former HMS Daedalus airfield has been proposed as the site for a new college but doubts have been raised about its suitability including its poor transport links.

A public meeting held on Tuesday 22nd January about the merger demonstrated the high level of opposition. Shouts of shame on you and rubbish were made, particularly over the potential loss of community facilities like artificial pitches from St Vincent’s.

There was also some resentment that the LSC had planned the meeting for a night when there was also a parents evening taking place, meaning many parents, students and staff were unable to attend.

LSC area director Martin Lamb said after the meeting: “I probably did expect this level of opposition. The people who support it didnt feel the need to turn up. Theres an element of the silent majority to this.

“If its an easy problem to solve it would have been done four or five years ago. Its not a perfect solution but the question is, will it be the most successful?”

Fareham college principal Carl Groves said that the area needed the investment a merged college would bring.

Public consultation over the merger ended on January 30th.

Marie Kemplay

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