A-levels return to city with merger

14th September 2001 at 01:00
A-LEVEL provision will return to the centre of Manchester following the first college merger to be approved under the new Learning and Skills Council regime.

Shena Simon College discontinued most of its A-level courses after a highly critical Further Education Funding Council inspection report last July, which left it with six grade 4s - including one for management - indicating weaknesses which outweighed its strengths.

It left the city centre with virtually no A-level provision despite considerable demand from the local community.

The site has been taken over by City College Manchester, which will turn it into a specialist sixth-form centre as well as enhancing its performing arts and offering English as a second language.

"Running down the A-level provision instead of working to improve its quality was a significant strategic error," said Willie Mills, City's principal. "You can hardly throw a stone in the centre of Manchester without hitting a university building, yet there is no sixth-form style provision in the centre of the city.

"We are committed to expanding the range of courses on offer while improving standards. We will work with other colleges and schools in the city to give school leavers more reasons and opportunities to stay in full-time education and achieve their full potential."

Shena Simon withdrew from maths, science, business, accounting, psychology, sociology and English, which had all been given grade 4s. The college was given grade 3 for governance. Threequarters of its full-time staff were made redundant and, by December, 60 per cent of its students were adults.

The new A-level programme will be introduced in September 2002.

The former college, which technically ceased to exist at the end of August, will no longer be named after Shena Simon, the early 20th-century socialist feminist who was one of the first women to read economics at Cambridge. The campus will be known as City Campus. It will be directly-managed but "branded" to give it the feel of a sixth-form college, Mr Mills said.

Outside the centre, City has campuses in Crumpsall, Northenden, West Didsbury and Baguley.

City's governing body took over responsibility on Saturday, after the merger was approved by Estelle Morris, the education secretary.

The merger means City College will have 25,000 students, making it one of the largest colleges in the country. Its expected turn-over for next year is pound;42 million, of which City Campus will account for around pound;2.5m.

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