Central College might just live up to its name as it’s confirmed that it will be centralising services into the City Centre. Plans recently confirmed suggest that the college building on Beeston High Road will close to free up resources to create a “super college” in the city. The Beeston campus will be decommissioned and sold of by 2020.
The Beeston Campus also houses a commercial salon, containing 40 hair-dressing stations and 32 beauty treatment beds, as well as a construction centre. It also provides courses in IT, health and social care, business and science. It currently teaches around 500 students.
Speaking on the plans, the Chief Executive detailed that some of the older buildings are being sold off to help fund the expansion, investment of a skill hub in the city centre. They believe this will allow them to offer the best vocational opportunities to students across the city and the surrounding area.
Hidden under the public statement there’s a lot of business language of fit for purpose, rationalisation and modernisation reflecting a decision more fit for a company that a school. Indeed the recently mooted merger included a lot of discussion of competition and efficiency.
This, sadly, is endemic in further education, FE, currently. There’s been a large amount of financial pressure on FE colleges to reduce spending whilst increasing results. The college where your author previously worked has seen cuts of up to 20% of its budget and has taken to renting out sections of the building to other schools.
The current pressure is to switch to apprenticeships, which go down well with nostalgic voters, but the funding has been found by cutting vocational courses. Staff morale across the sector is very low and those I spoke to seemed anxious about what the closure might mean for redundancies. Although some seem more enthusiastic. Speaking to the Nottingham Post Shaf Hussain, a member of the international department, accepted that there might be some closures but in the long run these would be better for local education.
Current students had a mixed reaction. Those I spoke to were largely unconcerned as most would have left by the time the changes occur. However, some expressed concerns about damage to the community around the college, feeling worried that a loss of local provision would hurt vocational courses in the long run. Others were sad to see the Beeston Campus go, saying they enjoyed studying close to home and might not have been able to afford the travel.
Older students and local businesses seemed more anxious, they were worried about the long term implications for such a loss to the high road. With the delays in the town centre development they seemed worried that this was yet another loss of investment in Beeston.
Local MP, Anna Soubry, was appalled by the closure and said she intends to fight to keep it open. She also raised concerns about poor planning, with the tram route having been selected to allow students to easily reach the college.
This feeling seems universal across local politics with the Labour groups at both County and Borough level speaking to the University and College Union, UCU, about campaigning against the closure and what it represents for Beeston. Both Labour and the Union were dedicated to securing a future for staff, students and the local businesses.
Councillor Greg Marshall warned that the writing has long been on the wall due to chronic underfunding reflecting a shortsighted approach to education. The 4million FE students have not been protected and Central College is just the latest casualty in the battle over education. With more real terms costs to come he thinks it’s important to fight for our children’s future. Greg is the Councillor for Beeston West which includes the school.
Local figures seem keen to fight it and hopefully they’ll find a suitable use. There is current speculation that the universities might be interested and Nottingham Trent have hinted previously at expansion plans. Former Cllr Steve Barber points to the success of NTU which built out of buildings left behind by the University of Nottingham. Sadly this is all speculation.
Regardless the closure of the Central College Campus is undoubtedly a loss for Beeston. The College has received good Ofsted ratings and has had a positive effect on the local economy. Like most schools it forms a sense of community and many will be sad to see it go. We can only hope, given the investment in the buildings, that it presents an opportunity for our wonderful town.