A MEETING will take place today between the Save Malvern Hills College SOS Task Group campaigners and Angela Joyce, CEO and Principal of Warwickshire Colleges Group (WCG).
The future of the college will be discussed and today’s talks follow the formal offer of £850,000 made to WCG by Worcestershire Community Foundation, thanks to the generosity of local funders who have contributed to the campaign.
The meeting will explore whether a deal can be closed between the parties.
A full business plan for a new community business to run Malvern Hills College has been prepared by members of the Malvern Hills College SOS Task Group.
Gini McKay, former Vice-Principal of South Worcestershire College which previously ran the College, and SOS Task Group Chairman, Coun Beverley Nielsen, Associate Professor at the think tank, IDEA, based at Birmingham City University for the past 14 years, have both worked together to produce detailed financial forecasts and scenario modelling for the new company.
As well as extended opening hours, the plan adds more breadth to the core courses already provided and new specialist artist day and weekend courses will be offered.
In addition 30 new courses covering career-oriented lifelong learning are included. This would give a total number of courses offered in year 2021/22 of more than 450. In addition new courses aimed at life skills development for pupils with special needs will be offered.
The SOS Task Group said it was aware of concerns expressed by local schools that with rising student numbers due to peak in the late 2020s and just one sixth form college left serving Malvern pupils based at the Chase, future capacity would become very tight. They added teachers were also concerned that more vulnerable pupils were having to travel out of Malvern to their chosen courses and that they would be better served in their own surroundings.
A new website www.savemalvernhillscollege.org has been built by the campaign’s student representative Gemma Wiseman and campaigners say they have the backing of several arts figures, including Sir Roy Strong, Maggi Hambling CBE, and Sky Arts presenter Kate Bryan adding their voices to the campaign.
Coun Nielsen said she was looking forward to a constructive meeting to discuss what they considered a ‘fair offer’ for the college.
“We are working to get a crowd funding page going over the coming week with support from Worcestershire Community Foundation.
“We know there is lots of pent up support amongst our residents and students in Malvern and we are expecting a fantastic response.
“Given this, we will be setting a £100k target especially given all the amazing support and offers of support we have had so far.
“Everyone on the SOS Task Group has devoted their time willingly and with enthusiasm to this cause.
“We need to save the college and this special educational site as the courses cannot easily be offered elsewhere.
“These are specialist workshops and studios providing unique learning spaces for silversmithing, ceramics and sculpture, print-making, book-binding, life-drawing and many other courses.”
A WCG spokesperson said it wanted to reiterate the announcement by WCG to cease operations at the Albert Road site in Malvern was taken with the greatest reluctance last November.
“It primarily stems from the Government cuts in adult education funding over the last decade – a point made this week by the FE Commissioner who sadly accepted that such decisions are having to be made across the college sector in an FE Week feature.
“Unfortunately, we have had no meaningful engagement from any of the now vocal individuals since the merger in 2016 until the announcement last November.
“We would have welcomed local and national political support in a more constructive way, and indeed did seek such support.”
They added the meeting must be conducted confidentially under the terms of the non-disclosure agreement Coun Neilson signed on behalf of the Task Group, and not played out in the media.
“WCG will continue to provide education for young people and adults in Malvern with new provision at the Science Park due to commence in September, including the new Digital Support Services T Level and a range of adult learning classes in IT and cyber security, all of which have been identified as priority skills to be developed to support Malvern businesses.”