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Recognising the College at the heart of our Community

Originally published in Community News Winter 2015 Edition

The lights are up and anticipation is building for Christmas Day. And so I thought for my final article of the year it would be an apt time to be thankful and recognise the role of community in the area and the importance of standing up for Bournville College’s future.

At the very heart of communities up and down the country are local schools and colleges. Bournville College is of course at the core of ours. And without Bournville, there would be no Community News!

However its capacity to deliver as a college and community hub may be compromised as the Government has launched a review into Further Education (FE) or post-16 education in Birmingham and Solihull.

Many of you will be aware of the turbulence at the College in recent months. Of course, Bournville College has had its own financial challenges. Some of these relate to decisions made by the College and I have asked the new Interim Principal to ensure that the causes are fully understood and that appropriate action is taken going forward.

However, the other key part of the picture is the massive national cuts to FE and Adult Education that the Government have made over the last six years.

In July, the National Audit Office expressed concern over the financial health of the sector following reductions in support since 2010/11. The FE Commissioner, an advisor to the Government on colleges, also recently warned that up 200 colleges (over 55 per cent) will be in financial difficulties

The unsustainable footing this has put on many colleges have provoked area reviews into how best to provide FE services.

In principle it’s not a bad idea, if it’s used as a vehicle for tailoring colleges better for the skills and training our communities use. So far, no options have been ruled out for how post-16 education could look like in Birmingham after, but it goes without saying should stories that a Birmingham-wide “super college” be created, it will not have my support. It cannot and must not be used by the Government to justify further cuts.

Last month, a collective of over 100 colleges wrote to the Prime Minister urging in part for a holistic approach to the post-16 area reviews and to recognise the role colleges and sixth forms play in fostering community, social mobility and economic success.

As part of our area’s review I have already met with the Department for Education to seek assurances on its approach and timeline. In the coming weeks I, with other Birmingham MPs, will be meeting the Review Commissioners along with College and Union representatives to discuss the emerging options.

Bournville is vital to expanding apprenticeships and providing local people – young and not so young -with the skills and opportunities they deserve. It is also a cornerstone of the regeneration of the Longbridge area. We must all stand up for Bournville College.