FE colleges announce plans to merge

A MAJOR shake-up of further education is on the cards after the two of the largest colleges in north Essex announced plans to merge.

James Hore

A MAJOR shake-up of further education is on the cards after the two of the largest colleges in north Essex announced plans to merge.

Colchester Institute is to join forces with Braintree College after bosses agreed to the proposal in principle and aim to complete the changes by next summer.

It is hoped the decision will ended speculation about the future of Braintree College which was branded as “inadequate” by inspectors in December 2006 and replaced its principal earlier this year.

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Temporary principal at Braintree, David Mason, told the EADT yesterday the changes would not lead to any job losses and said he hoped there could be an increase to the current staffing levels of 300.

The overhaul was announced yesterday following a meeting of Braintree College's Corporation on Monday evening.

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The two colleges have said they will now focus on the specifics of the merger by putting together an “initial outline proposal” by the end of this academic year.

If that is formally endorsed by the corporations of both colleges, the final decision will go to the Secretary of State for the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills.

Mr Mason said: “For the students we can secure long-term provision and hopefully we will be able to expand this provision.

“This has to be a positive for job security at the college and if we do expand there could be more jobs created.

“Braintree's learners and local employers can look forward to a comprehensive and exciting range of education and training options which will supply a highly skilled local workforce.

“We are confident our college will thrive through this new partnership with Colchester Institute.

“We look forward to moving forward together to provide the best possible learning and skills opportunities for all our community.”

Colchester Institute's principal Danny Clough said: “We welcome this decision and aim to work closely with Braintree colleagues to maintain and enhance the opportunities currently provided in the local area.”

And Brian Cutmore, Braintree College's corporation chairman, said: “We can look forward to working closely with Colchester Institute and Learning and Skills Council (LSC) Essex to find new ways of expanding on Braintree College's fine tradition of offering high-quality learning to our students, employers and the wider community.

“Braintree College is fortunate in having a dedicated team of professional staff who will be working closely with Colchester Institute staff to secure the best possible outcomes for learners in Braintree.”

Janice Logie, area director of LSC Essex, which is responsible for ensuring the availability of post-16 education and training, said: “LSC notes the intention of Braintree College and Colchester Institute to move towards merger in the coming year.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with the colleges during this time.”

Braintree College has a separate campus at Witham which is included in the merger while Colchester Institute also has centres in Clacton and Dovercourt.

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