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Broad support for Barrow college merger

[F]eedback from the public consultation on the proposed merger between Barrow Sixth Form and Furness College has indicated broad support for the plan.

The two colleges are considering merging to strengthen education and skills training for students in Cumbria and to safeguard the future of post-16 education.

A public consultation ran from March 18th to April 30th with people submitting feedback via post and an online form.

Barrow Sixth Form College Principal David Batten
Barrow Sixth Form College Principal David Batten

Principal David Batten said a total of 18 responses were received in addition to a public meeting at the Rating Lane college and discussions with the business community via the college’s advisory board.

Respondents include staff, parents of college students and secondary school pupils, education leaders, the council and local business.

“In summary, there is broad support for the proposal from a wide range of our stakeholders,” he said. “Everyone is keen to maintain the high quality post-16 academic education we have a long tradition of providing for the town and recognise that we are taking steps to achieve this.

“The responses reflect how highly regarded the sixth form is by people in the area and they want to retain a broad choice of curriculum, which is also our aim.

“Naturally, there are a few questions connected with change and we have listened to these concerns and they will be fed back to our boards as part of the consultation process.”

Andrew Wren
Andrew Wren

Principal and Chief Executive of Furness College Andrew Wren said: “We are delighted with the response from our stakeholders who rate Barrow Sixth Form College very highly and who recognise the benefits a merger would afford. There is clearly a good understanding of the drivers for the merger and support for our proposal which will ensure sixth form college provision is retained in Barrow. We will consider carefully any concerns raised and communicate these to our staff and governors.

“Furness College is committed to maintaining the very high standard of A level provision for Furness, together with the sixth form college ethos, which is highly regarded by the community. Through the close working relationship between colleagues on both sites, we intend to grow the curriculum available to our young people whilst safeguarding the excellent quality of provision offered through academic and vocational programmes.”

The colleges have been in discussions since last October to safeguard the future of post-16 education for the area at a time when government funding to the sixth form is not sufficient for it to continue in its present form.

The merger plan has been endorsed by Skills Minister Nick Boles who praised both colleges for their performance achieving ‘good’ Ofsted grades and a history of successful collaboration and commitment to high quality provision for the local community.

The boards of each college have agreed the merger in principle as part of a positive strategy to maintain a broad curriculum offer.

They say the benefits of a merger would be a ‘single, larger and more financially resilient college’ that can offer an unparalleled curriculum and raise education standards across the area. Both colleges would remain on their existing sites.

In the consultation document, the colleges outline the benefits of a merger as:

  • Continuing to inspire people and change lives through education and training
  • Creating a single, larger and more financially resilient college
  • Maintaining and extending the breadth of the academic offer within Barrow
  • Allowing students more flexibility to choose programmes comprising a mixture of academic and vocational elements
  • Creating an outstanding college that can work in partnership with schools and business to raise the standards of education and skills training across the area.

More information about the merger proposal and the feedback report is available on the website www.barrow6fc.ac.uk/merger

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