Cuts blow to community education

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FIVE community education centres are to close this summer as Sheffield College prepares for anticipated Government funding cuts of £4m.

The decision, announced this week in a letter to staff, means that 13 jobs will be lost – a total that is expected to reach 120 by the end of the academic year.

Adult courses at Darnall Education Centre, Prince Edward Primary School, Tapton School, Tinsley Community Centre and Vestry Hall will be relocated to the college’s main city centre campus from September.

Only courses at Fir Vale Centre will continue under the cutbacks, which are backed by the governing body.

Already there has been criticism from the local Green Party. Co-chair Bernard Little said: “Sheffield will lose nearly all its community education centres which are vital for many parents, who are able to improve their skills during the day and still get home in time to pick the children up from school.

“Making experienced teachers of numeracy, literacy and English as a second language redundant is a criminal waste of talent. These skills are exactly what we should be investing in.

“We urge the college to engage in meaningful negotiations with the University and College Union to find ways to prevent job losses.”

The college currently runs part-time and evening classes for up to 1,000 adults at venues around the city. But from September most of these will be relocated to the four main sites: Hillsborough, Norton, Peaks and City.

Chief executive Heather MacDonald said: “Pulling back from community-based provision has been a difficult decision, especially where the withdrawal of funding for literacy and numeracy skills is concerned.

“These courses enable a wide range of people including asylum seekers and refugees to gain access to essential services and progress into jobs and higher education.

“We will continue to offer ESOL and Skills for Life and are seeking to mitigate the impact of the cuts by relocating some of that provision to our main college sites. We are also consulting with the voluntary sector to see if they can assist with supporting some of the gaps in provision, particularly for ESOL.”

The college faces a 17% cut for ESOL and a 30% for Skills for Life, amounting to a potential reduction of more than £1m next year.