Shake-up 'will improve adult education'

THE woman in charge of adult education in Colchester has stressed the future of the service is more important than which building it is based in. Nicola Whittingham was responding to news that Essex County Council is to close the popular Grey Friars adult education college and sell off the valuable High Street building.

THE woman in charge of adult education in Colchester has stressed the future of the service is more important than which building it is based in.

Nicola Whittingham was responding to news that Essex County Council is to close the popular Grey Friars adult education college and sell off the valuable High Street building.

The council plans to merge services into an upgraded Wilson Marriage Adult Learning Centre in the Hythe area of town, and said the change could lead to job losses.

It has announced more than £1million pounds could be spent on improving the facilities of the centre.


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But Alan Skinner, former principal of Grey Friars, has questioned whether the Wilson Marriage centre would be suitable as the flagship of adult education in the town.

He accused the council of cashing in on Grey Friars and suggested there could be an outcry from the public.

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But his successor, Mrs Whittingham, principal of adult education at both Grey Friars and Wilson Marriage said she was delighted with the county council's decision.

She said: “I know that people have a lot of affection for Grey Friars but adult education is about more than a building, it is about the services for people.

“It is about what is fit for purpose and some parts of Grey Friars were built in 1749 and would need a lot of work and renovation to bring it up to be fit for purpose.

“I want to get the message across, loud and clear, that now that the decision has been taken to close Grey Friars, it is really important for people to understand adult education in Colchester goes beyond Grey Friars - the two are not necessarily synonymous.”

She said enrolment figures for courses were up and said having two years to transfer services meant the changes could be made properly.

Discussions are planned to ensure public transport links to the Wilson Marriage centre have been improved by the time it opens in September 2008.

Iris Pummell, county councillor in charge of community services, said: “Wilson Marriage is located near the Hythe, which has a number of new residential developments, and Colchester Borough Council is planning substantial regeneration of this area.

“The county council recognises these aspirations in developing the Hythe area and we hope this new investment can make a contribution to this.”

Improvements suggested for Wilson Marriage centre include:

n A main hall within the college that can easily be adapted to enable exams, events and activities as well as the teaching of physical education subjects.

n Two further large areas for dance and other fitness/large scale activities.

n Crèche/pre-school areas for children of students, increasing access for parents.

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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