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Spicer, Luff and Baldwin call for a halt to plans for Pershore Group of Colleges

30th January 2007

Sir Michael Spicer MP and Harriett Baldwin, Parliamentary Candidate for West Worcestershire, visited Pershore College on Friday 26th January 2007.

They heard about plans for the Pershore Group of Colleges to be broken up and for the Holme Lacey Campus to merge with Hereford College of Technology and for Pershore College to be absorbed into Warwickshire College. Present at the meeting were the Principal of Pershore Group of Colleges, Heather Barrett-Mold, the Deputy Principal Gavin Teasdale and David Tidsbury, who is Chairman of the Governors of Warwickshire College.

Sir Michael Spicer MP, Peter Luff MP and Harriett Baldwin, today issued the following statement:

"Pershore College is a centre of excellence for horticultural training and research and plays a vital part in the horticultural and food industries in the Vale of Evesham. We wish to see Pershore College serve future generations of Worcestershire students as effectively as it has done in the past. This year the Group of Colleges is projected to break even and to start to repay the money it owes to the Learning and Skills Council. In our view it is the wrong time to consider breaking up the College.

We are deeply concerned about a number of aspects of the present proposal. How can we be sure that at some point in the future Warwickshire College will not decide to close the Pershore Campus and sell the site? This is exactly what happened when the Hindlip Agricultural College was merged into the Pershore group, despite robust assurances about its future. What courses will be moved to Warwickshire and how far will students from Worcestershire have to travel for certain courses? Specifically it is not clear how provision at Pershore will be safeguarded. What will be the impact on the taxpayer of the Learning and Skills Council intent to write off the present debt and to pay redundancy costs to an unspecified number of Pershore-based staff? And if the equivalent financial help were provided to Pershore under some other arrangement, would it not be equally viable?

We call on those concerned, especially in the Learning and Skills Council, to put a hold on discussions about the amalgamation of Pershore with Warwickshire Colleges until other options have been fully considered. A thorough investigation should be made for instance of the possibility of cooperative arrangements between Pershore and other colleges of further education in Worcestershire itself.

These proposals are being rushed through without proper consideration being given to the full range of options. A proper business plan has not been made available to justify the proposal. No assurances have been provided about the impact of the increased influence and power of Warwickshire's colleges on the FE institutions of Worcestershire."

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