Prepared for the battle of Hastings and Rother

2nd April 2004 at 01:00
Plans to scrap six school sixth-forms and replace them with an FEcollege are causing difficulties for Henry Ball, the Learning and Skills Council's regional director for the South-east.

Mr Ball faces fierce opposition to the proposals, which form part of the strategic area review for the Sussex LSC.

He was heckled last month as he tried to explain the closures to parents at one of the schools that would lose its sixth-form.

It was the latest in a series of parental protests which he has endured at public meetings in the 18 months since the plans were first mooted. Various petitions and letters have also been signed.

The Sussex LSC, of which Mr Ball is executive director, wants to open a new FE college spread over four sites - two in Hastings and one each in Battle and Bexhill.

The plan involves a pound;53 million capital investment programme, with the changes taking effect in September 2005.

Hastings and Rother New College would accommodate some 3,000 full-time and 10,000 part-time students.

Mr Ball said: "This proposal is one which links very closely with the regeneration of Hastings.

"It involves the creation of a family of four colleges within a single structure.

"The issue in Hastings is that the local education authority was concerned that performance post-16 wasn't as good as it should be.

"Employers were telling us that there was an inadequate skills base for employment in the local area.

"We undertook a major review of post-16 provision which showed that opportunities for young people - particularly those without five good GCSEs - were totally inadequate.

"There was low participation in work-based learning and significant numbers of young people were leaving the area. Choice wasn't there for them.

"This radical proposal has been developed to transform choice and opportunity for students in the Hastings and Rother area.

"The schools are not convinced at this stage that these are the right proposals to improve participation and performance."

Consultation will take place until May 11, after which LSC Sussex will decide whether or not to proceed to a final proposal.

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