EDUCATION chiefs at Stafford College, who reduced the amount of A Levels offered by the institution, made every effort to minimise the impact on students planning to study with them.
Speaking to the Newsletter, Ms Anne Piercy, vice principal of Stafford College, explained managers had made the decision to cut the number of A Levels the college had offered in order to balance a budget hit by a £2.5million reduction in government grant allocation.
“The government started cuts to colleges last year, but we're a very well managed institution in terms of finance and last year we managed without having to make significant cuts,” said Ms Piercy. “But as the cuts have gone on year on year they've become deeper and we couldn't balance our budget without making some changes.
Ms Piercy said it became apparent the college needed to rationalise its curriculum.
“You look at the income you're going to get, the costs you incur and if the two things are out of kilter, you have to make sure you do everything to maximise your income,” she said. “You look carefully at the costs that are not around jobs, where you can reasonably make savings.
“Obviously you want to prioritise saving jobs where it impacts on your delivery.”
“The area we've decided to close is A Levels, not entirely, but we are reducing the number of A Levels we're offering,” said Ms Piercy. “There was a way to keep some of them going, but we had to close some in order to make the sort of savings we were looking at.”
Ms Piercy said the college had also decided to stop offering plumbing courses, partly to save costs, but also because the qualifications on offer nationally had changed significantly over the last few years, with some having been completely withdrawn.
“Some may be continuing to offer what's left of the qualifications, but they are qualifications that we really thought were not satisfactory for learners that wanted to study plumbing.”
Ms Piercy said one of the reasons the college had decided to cut A Levels was that they had previously offered them as part of a shared prospectus alongside the town's high schools, allowing students to be registered at one institution, but study from a list of courses offered throughout the town.
“We will continue to work with the collegiate, but not as a partner where the students actually register,” she said. “So the students will register with the schools and still attend some of our classes but we won't have A Level learners registered with us.”
She said because A Levels still existed within that shared prospectus, it meant the college wasn't taking away something exclusive and forcing students to travel elsewhere to study their preferred subjects.
“Whereas, if we had decided to close one of our vocational areas, it's possible there would have been nowhere for students who wanted to study that subject without them travelling a long way to another college.”
She said the college would continue to focus on its strong vocational provision as well as the A Levels it retained and would continue to deliver for their partners in the collegiate.
She said, “I think it's positive in that we're really going to be able to focus on our strengths, which is vocational provision in everything from art and design to sports, to health and social care, early years, hair and beauty, all of those things.”
She said that some of those areas would be strengthened further by improved facilities when the college's new building opened in September.
Ms Piercy said everyone who had applied to Stafford College to study there in the next year had been contacted and informed of the curriculum changes.
“Most of them, we have managed to make them an offer for next year,” she said.
She said while some people had been unhappy, many of them had been directed to a similar vocational alternative they hadn't previously realised was available to them.
“Inevitably, we understand that some people who can't do what they wanted to do will be disappointed and we did our level best to try to minimise that really.
“It's unfortunate and it's not what we would have chosen, but it was unavoidable.
Mrs Piercy added that as of yet she was unsure how many staff would lose their jobs,
“We've gone through a process with the trade unions of collective consultation, but we aren't at the end of the whole process, and we won't know how many positions we will lose until we are.”
She said many people had volunteered to take redundancy, but regretfully, there would have to be a number of compulsory redundancies.
The college has confirmed that it will continue to offer A Levels in Art (with options in Textiles, Photography, Fine Art and Graphic Communications), Drama and Theatre Studies, Film Studies, Media Studiesm and Physical Education as well as offering Level 3 Extended Diploma qualifications in areas including Animal Management, Art & Design, Business, Health & Social Care, Childcare, Computing, Countryside Management, Hospitality, Music Technology, Public Services, Sport, Applied Science, and Travel & Tourism.