Fight to save adult education college

By James HoreANGRY students and staff vowed last night to fight against the possible sale of their college's flagship building. A public meeting was held at Grey Friars adult community college in Colchester last night in response to fears the listed building could be sold off by Essex County Council.

By James Hore

ANGRY students and staff vowed last night to fight against the possible sale of their college's flagship building.

A public meeting was held at Grey Friars adult community college in Colchester last night in response to fears the listed building could be sold off by Essex County Council.

The concern came as the college - which caters for thousands of learners each year - faced the consequences of falling grants for adult education.


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About 70 people attended the meeting and pledged to lobby councillors to highlight how vital the grade II listed building in High Street was to the future of the college.

Although the adult community college could continue to operate at other sites around the town, the building is integral to the services provided, as well as the identity of the institution.

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The college members' association, representing students and staff, called for Grey Friars to be removed from Essex County Council's list of buildings that could be sold.

Peter Marsh, association chairman, said: "We believe it is in the right location for education in Colchester and we do not want to move - we want to stay here. We must have a major site for adult learning and that major site should be here in Grey Friars."

Alan Skinner, college principal, said he had discovered that the council regarded the college's High Street site as being "disproportionately" large, despite providing thousands of courses.

He added: "We will keep this disproportionately large site because we need it - in Colchester there is a large following, a large support, a large commitment and, at the moment, a very committed workforce and we would very much like to carry on working from this building."

Mr Skinner said the college would be pushing for an early day motion at the House of Commons to draw attention to the challenges faced by adult education institutions throughout the country.

He urged the people at the meeting to exercise their "democratic right" to make their feelings known to county councillors.

It was also suggested last night that the college could be merged with its Tendring counterpart into one unit providing adult education in north-east Essex.

The college, which has been providing adult education classes for more than 30 years, offers a range of courses from one-day sessions, intensive training and summer schools.

Its High Street building lies on the doorstep of the proposed St Botolph's development and bosses had hoped it would play an integral part in the town's future regeneration.

Essex County Council has said it is not forcing the changes upon the college and blamed the Government for a reduction in its budgets.

But Iris Pummell, county council member for community services, has refused to rule out a sale of the college's High Street site.

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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