Staff face the axe as cuts to Wisbech college bite
THE College of West Anglia (COWA) has announced it is making up to 45 people redundant, closing a campus and moving courses to different sites.
A �3 million cut in Government funding for further education has prompted the move which will see the site of Wisbech Campus, at Newcommon Bridge, sold for redevelopment to create extra cash for college coffers.
The news comes as colleges at Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Bury St Edmunds are all shedding staff to save millions of pounds as education budgets feel the pain of the Government’s spending cuts.
COWA’s Wisbech site offers animal care courses which will move to its Milton campus, near Cambridge, from September 2012.
The college’s Isle Campus, Ramnoth Road, also in Wisbech, will undergo major redevelopment but musical theatre and business and computing courses will relocate to Lynn as a result if the proposals announced today are approved.
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Principal David Pomfret said savings of �3.4 million had to be made and a total of 77 staff posts would be affected although, with the creation of 32 new jobs, only around 45 people may face redundancy and the majority would be non-teaching.
“The reality is that we cannot continue to deliver the same range of courses and training at all our locations in light of these funding cuts,” said Mr Pomfret.
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“We are committed to avoiding compulsory redundancies as far as possible and will look at a range of options to minimise this, including seeking volunteers for redundancy, applications for early retirement and considering requests to work reduced hours,” he added.
All the students relocating from Isle to Lynn will have their transport costs met by the college for the duration of their courses.
“We are committed to minimising the impact on our students and we will ensure those whose courses are affected are able to complete their studies with us, wherever possible.
“The college will work to ensure that transport is arranged at no additional cost to the student,” said Mr Pomfret.
But news that the musical theatre course is to move to Lynn has been met with fury by students at Isle who are planning on fighting the proposal.
Liam Nixon, 16, said: “We were right in the middle of launching our yearly musical when they told us. A lot of people in the room were in tears - even people who are leaving this year.
“We were all really emotional because this course means so much to us. The college studio has been like our second home.”
Becky Best, 17, said: “When I came on this course I had no confidence. I came to improve my singing and acting skills but I also made new friends, built my confidence and found myself really. It’s just appalling what’s happening.”
The course’s studio is in a building at Isle which is to be demolished in �7 million redevelopment project which will see two blocks replaced with a state-of-the-art technology facility. The site will also include offices for Cambridgeshire County Council.
Mr Pomfret said musical theatre was a course within the performing arts faculty and the only one offered at Isle.
“It is unfortunately impossible to avoid some impact on the breadth of course provision across our campuses. Accordingly, we have looked closely at programmes, such as performing arts, that are delivered in two locations and this, along with the associated costs, has been a significant factor in developing the proposals,” he said.
The course has strong links with the town’s Angles Theatre where it stages musical productions and Mr Pomfret said the college was liaising with staff there to see if the relationship could be maintained.
“We understand that the students are upset by the proposals and we will be meeting with them again next week to discuss their concerns,” he said. A final decision on the proposed changes will be made by July.
Norwich City College announced last month that up to 87 members of staff could be made redundant to help make savings of �2m. Teaching unions have warned that the quality of teaching would suffer as a result.
Earlier this year staff at Great Yarmouth College were told that the equivalent of up to 40 posts would have to go to stem an annual operating deficit of �1m while the West Suffolk College in Bury St Edmunds announced that 49 posts were at risk as it also strove to make budget savings of �1m.