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New start for farm college

A troubled Somerset agricultural college should get a much-needed cash boost of up to pound;4 million after being taken over by a successful neighbour.

The merger of the beleaguered Cannington college with Bridgwater college, Somerset, finally happened this month after being approved by the Learning and Skills Council and the Department for Education and Skills.

Bridgwater now expects around pound;4m from the Learning and Skills Council to invest in its new Cannington centre for land-based studies.

The depression in agriculture and other crises such as BSE and foot and mouth hit Cannington hard. It received a scathing inspection report last year and was pound;1.5m in debt while Bridgwater is one of the best-performing colleges in the country.

But Bridgwater principal Fiona McMillan is looking forward to a new start in Cannington. She said: "We are very excited about it. We will welcome land studies and develop it in a big way. We have had a lot of support from the Learning and Skills Council and are anticipating pound;4m towards the land-based studies."

Gordon Fraser, Cannington's chairman of governors, said: "This merger marks the start of an exciting period for the land-based curriculum, which will become more viable and attract more investment in a larger organisation."

Cannington with 3,140 students offered land-based courses such as agriculture, countryside management, arboriculture, animal care, floristry and horticulture.

It will be part of a Bridgwater set-up which has 13,500 full and part-time students and a much more academic ethos offering 45 A-level courses as well as a range of vocational training.

Derek Randall, Bridgwater's chairman of governors, said: "We are very confident that there is a secure future for the land-based curriculum and that the community will benefit significantly from the merger."

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