Merger may save censured college

23rd June 1995 at 01:00
A troubled Birmingham sixth-form college is on the verge of being saved from closure following merger talks with one of the city's further education institutions.

St Philip's RC Sixth-Form College, whose management was severely criticised in a Further Education Funding Council report last November, may be absorbed into South Birmingham College from the end of next month.

The move will lead to the creation of the St Philip's Sixth Form Centre, which will remain on the present site in Edgbaston until July 1997 before an alternative site is found.

Last week, governors at St Philip's denied the discussions represented a U-turn in their policy to close the college, claiming the principal aim was to safeguard teachers' jobs. So far this year 25 teaching posts have been lost.

The Oratory Fathers, who are the trustees of St Philip's, have agreed in principle to the college remaining on the present site until August 1997.

Before the rescue plans were initiated, the college was due to close in August 1996.

Talks between the lawyers representing the sides were taking place as The TES was going to press.

Geoff Jones, St Philip's governors' chairman, said approaches had been made to a number of sixth-form and further education colleges in the past few weeks. The South Birmingham discussions were proving the most fruitful, although there was a possibility of a merger with Bournville or Handsworth FE colleges if those talks collapsed.

Mr Jones added: "We want to keep our options open. The discussions that are taking place at the moment would involve South Birmingham College assuming all the liabilities."

Alan Birks, principal of South Birmingham College, said St Philip's would operate as a sixthform centre and would retain its Roman Catholic ethos.

He said: "It will operate as a separate entity but the staff will technically be employed by the FE college. We are pleased to have been given permission to remain on the premises for two years to give us time to put together a capital funding bid for alternative accommodation."

Since plans to close St Philip's were first announced in September 1992, several rescue plans have emerged only to be written off for legal or other reasons.

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