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Problem is that college lacks support at local level
11:24am Thursday 5th September 2013 in Letters
THE Journal’s recent reports on Wiltshire College Salisbury withdrawing its A-level courses points to systemic flaws in our local education arrangements.
Effective governance requires democratic support and an agreed agenda. In our case, we have none of these things despite the efforts of those involved to make the most of our schools and colleges.
We lack a coherent framework for democratic support at local level.
There is no local panel of councillors from Salisbury dealing with the education issues raised by local people.
The Community Area Partnership was set up by Wiltshire Council to tackle local concerns, including education.
Clear anxieties were expressed through the Partnerships Household survey in 2011. Local people were concerned about poor standards at our FE College, the lack of sixth forms outside the grammar schools, and the absence of a university in and for Salisbury and south Wiltshire.
A number of us volunteered to serve on the Partnership and Education Group, which has produced and circulated a wide ranging report on these and related issues. Coherent dialogue with our area board and city council is made almost impossible by the fact that our councils serve the parish of Salisbury and not the wider district, where most of our local schools are situated.
And our dysfunctional system means that it is currently not possible to have public discussion about issues raised by the public. The proposals for a science college, a sixth form centre and the University Technology College appear to be treated as separate initiatives rather than key parts of an integrated agenda.
This fosters damaging rivalry between institutions and makes it impossible to achieve a shared and workable vision for our social, economic and cultural development.
It is partly a matter of geography. Salisbury and south Wiltshire naturally relate more to Hampshire and Dorset than to ‘Trowbridgeshire’ and the north of the county.
Key senior managers of our FE college, however, are based outside Salisbury. This affects how staff feel about their ‘ownership’ of their college and their efforts to support it.
An experienced colleague who works elsewhere in FE reckons that senior managers should not spend more than ten minutes or so travelling from one campus to another.
The 700 or so students who regularly pass the doors of our college on their way to colleges in Totton, Brockenhurst and elsewhere are making a similar point. Unless Wiltshire College Salisbury becomes Salisbury College Wiltshire, little substantial progress will be made.
There’s work to be done. And it’s worth doing.
JOHN POTTER, Salisbury
I was puzzled by the assertion that “very small class sizes (often of one or two) restrict the learning experience of students significantly”. On the contrary, I should have thought it enhances it.
Myself and a fellow student constituted a class of two for our A-levels. The concentrated tuition we received was clearly beneficial as we were both successful and obtained the university places of our choice.
I can understand that classes of this size may make it uneconomic from a teaching point of view, but it would be honest to recognise this as a significant reason rather than the one given by Wiltshire College.
BRIAN GRIFFIN, East Harnham
HASN’T Wiltshire College realised there are probably quite a few of us a bit past our teenage years out here who would love to do another A-level locally rather than Open University courses to keep our interests and challenges up?
JANET RADFORD, Salisbury
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