Central Sussex College to focus on vocational education

14 April 2016
Central Sussex College has announced it plans to wind down its A-level provision in a move to secure its future as a leading provider of vocational education. The college will close its Haywards Heath campus by the end of 2017 and move adult learning courses from East Grinstead to Crawley.

“Significant financial challenges facing the college, coupled with an increase in sixth forms and oversupply of A-levels in the area, mean that the college has to reluctantly make these changes,” said Principal Sarah Wright.

Chairman of Governors Chris Maidment said: “The Board of Governors have taken this difficult decision in order to secure the future of the college so that it can focus on its leading role as a specialist in vocational education - improving the skills and job opportunities of the local workforce and helping young people train for sustainable, enjoyable, economically beneficial careers.

“To do this the college needs to concentrate its efforts and energies on its specialisms, such as engineering and construction.”

The college is currently developing its Crawley campus to provide two new centres that focus on vocational skills development in advanced technology and information technology.

The Centre for Advanced Technology will offer a range of programmes focusing on renewable and sustainable technologies and engineering, along with specialist courses designed to support the needs of local employers and promote progression into high-skilled industries. Whilst the IT Academy will provide support to enhance the digital and computing skills of young people and those already working in the IT industry, as well as offering a range of specialist computer software and hardware courses. Both centres will be open for students starting their courses in September 2016.

At the end of the 2015/16 academic year the college will also move a small number of adult education courses, currently taught for two days a week at the East Grinstead campus, to its Crawley campus.

The Hayward’s Heath campus will stay open until students finish their courses in summer 2017, after which it will be sold. Applicants will be helped to find a place elsewhere for study in September 2016.

“It is a huge blow,” said Ms Wright. “We are very proud of the students taught at Haywards Heath and East Grinstead, past and present, and the excellent teachers that have helped them succeed.”

“However, the brutal truth is that our debts are too high and in order to protect the majority of students and staff, and the wider community, we have to substantially reduce our costs. There are very significant savings to be had from reducing the number of campuses from which we operate and the board is clear that our focus must be as a leading, specialist provider of vocational education.”

“Our immediate priorities are to minimise the disruption to students and deal as fairly as possible with affected staff. We have timed the announcement so as to give as early warning as possible to applicants. A-level and vocational students half way through two-year courses will continue until the end of their courses.

“We have also put a number of measures in place to honour our obligation to students and protect the quality of every course. These include incentives to retain teaching staff, retention of expert learning and teaching managers and plans to fill any future gaps with high quality teachers.”

Staff numbers at the Haywards Heath campus will be reduced in line with the number of students and 19 full time posts will be made redundant.

“We have explored all other options but these decisions, taken with reluctance and deep regret for the impact on staff, are sadly necessary,” said Ms Wright.

The college, the Department for Education and West Sussex County Council are in discussions about the potential use of the Haywards Heath Campus and associated playing field for an Academy for both primary and secondary aged children.

“Our hope and intention is that the site should become a school in an area with acute need for primary and pre-16 secondary provision,” said Ms Wright.