I have long taken an interest in Wornington College and the hard-fought battles to save it for the community in North Kensington. There are dedicated people who have worked tirelessly in the last couple of years to improve the college, strengthen its board of governors and save it from closure or merger with an unsuitable partner.
A local college that is known to many and genuinely serves a community has done and can still do a great deal for an area that is desperately in need of stability and hope.
I was saddened when two of the governors who had joined the board to strengthen community knowledge and connections felt in recent months they had to leave – Joe Batty and Alison McArthur. Along with the members of the Save Wornington Campaign, they are individuals who really know the area and feel passionately about the college.
The future of the college is still by no means certain and a wave of cost-cutting has been announced that has alarmed many of its close followers. Prudent management of finances is, of course, vital to any business, but how can it make sense that one of the most important areas for the community in North Kensington, ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) has been selected as the principal areas for cuts? It is the biggest department, with the biggest student numbers and the largest income. The students are the future of the community – including Moroccans, Spanish, Syrian, Eritrean – and the parents of the future.
This is being viewed by concerned residents and supporters of the college as discrimination against a vulnerable group of students, to certain staff and to the community in North Kensington.
The Board of the Kensington and Chelsea College voted to approve a takeover by Morley College 4th March this year. A detailed standalone proposal, considered by many to be bold and visionary, was rejected. Interestingly RBK & C commended the standalone group ‘for the work it had done to put residents’ needs at the heart of its proposals and to meet their aspirations fully’.
An independent report was commissioned into the original sale of the Wornington Road site to RBKC where it stated that excluding staff and student governors from the meetings was bad practice. The Further Education Commissioners and chair of the board, also excluded staff and student governors from the panel who heard the two proposals – standalone and takeover.
There have been some strong criticisms in recent times of the way the college has been managed and the board has been accused in part of timidity and lack of willingness to challenge the management on vital details. The figures perhaps speak for themselves with an actual deficit of £6 million this year against an agreed deficit of £4.4 million.
Perhaps reducing ESOL courses was an easy win for the cost-cutters, but what sense does it make in North Kensington?
How does this make sense for the Community?