Expand or merge, college is told

1st December 2000 at 00:00
SHENA Simon College in Manchester has been told to merge with one of four other colleges or expand its 16 to 18-year-old provision if it wants to remain independent.

A review by Dr Terry Melia, chair of the Learning and Skills Development Agency, says the college "has a one-off chance to put its house in order".

The review follows a highly critical inspection report on the college published in July by the Further Education Funding Council.

The college received six grade 4s (weaknesses clearly outweighing the strengths) including one for management. Teaching was below the national average. Students were late or failed to attend. Achievement was poor. But it got top grades for its ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) programmes, where the teaching was "a joy to behold".

The college has undergone a significant change in character. Originally catering for 16 to 18-year-olds, 60 per cent of its stuents are now adults; there has also been an increase in its ESOL students and in international students hoping to go on to higher education.

As a result of the inspection the college decided to withdraw from mathematics and science; business and accounting; and psychology, sociology and English - which had all been awarded grade 4s. Three-quarters of the full-time staff were declared redundant.

But according to the review this response does not explore the long-term viability of the college. Nor does it take account of the Government's strategy to increase the participation of 16 to 18-year-olds in FE. It will not be able to offer the full range of opportunities that the Manchester area needs.

It should refocus its core business by expanding its 16-18 provision, or consider merger with City College, Manchester, Loreto College, Manchester College of Arts and Technology (MANCAT) or Xaverian College.

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