The South Gloucestershire councillor who leads for Labour on young people’s matters has called for urgent action to support students who might choose to move college as a result of the City of Bristol College’s decision to close its Soundwell campus.
The College announced its shock decision to remove all of its courses from Soundwell back in March. The local community, councillors and Council officials had not been consulted beforehand and have been working ever since to ensure that local young people in the area, which is at the heart of two of the council’s Priority Neighbourhoods, do not suffer as a result of the closure.
At the meeting of the council’s Children & Young People Committee yesterday, Labour Lead Councillor Gareth Manson (Labour, Woodstock) sought to support institutions that take in displaced students by asking what the council can do to ensure that grant funding follows students who choose to move to an alternative college or school. He was given a pledge by education officials that the council would pursue this matter directly with the Education Funding Agency and the Skills Funding Agency.
Explaining his concerns, Councillor Manson said:
“Unfortunately the City of Bristol College does not seem particularly interested in the local communities of Soundwell and Kingswood, two of the more deprived areas where they currently work. By withdrawing from Soundwell they are forcing local young people to travel to alternative sites, some of which involve long and convoluted bus journeys.
There is a real chance that students will choose to attend different colleges instead, but we have been advised that funding for colleges is already fixed for the next academic year. It would be completely wrong for the City of Bristol College to benefit from funding for students who feel that they have to move to another institution.
Labour councillors have real concerns that some local young people will not travel long distances to attend college and will thus fall through the net. We remain committed to pressing for an alternative educational and training use for the site, but ever since the City of Bristol College sprung this decision on us in March it has not seemed interested in working with local councillors to develop a plan for the future of the site that would benefit the local community.”