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Council and college remain at odds over future of FE in Southwark

The leader of Southwark Council has launched a strongly worded attack on the 'failing' Lewisham Southwark College after plans to de-merge further education in the two boroughs were apparently rejected.

Council and college remain at odds over future of FE in Southwark
Cllr Peter John has condemned Lewisham Southwark College as a "failing" institution

Last month Southwark Council went public on its audacious proposal to take over Lewisham Southwark College's Waterloo campus in The Cut and create a new further education college for Southwark alone.

Now Carole Kitching, the new principal of Lewisham Southwark College, has told staff that the FE Commissioner has effectively rejected the council's proposal and given the college's new management time to put a recovery plan into action.

"Lewisham Southwark should be and will be stronger together," said Ms Kitching.

The college was formed three years ago by the merger of Lewisham College with Southwark College – but it has received a series of poor Ofsted reports and is facing severe financial problems.

Cllr Peter John, leader of Southwark Council, has issued a strong response to the apparent failure of his takeover plan: "We've had no formal notification from the FE Commissioner, but frankly, if he wants to back a failing college, then that is up to him. What I do know, is that the council owes it to local young people and older learners to fight tooth and nail to ensure they get the education they deserve, and move seamlessly into careers in Southwark.

"We have so many opportunities locally, because of our ambitious regeneration and support for business, but Lewisham Southwark College is not preparing students to compete in the jobs market.

"Lewisham Southwark College has already let down Southwark's young people, and all residents, by the poor quality of its further education offer in recent years. In 2012 the college sold its site in Bermondsey; now it wants to further diminish the offer to Southwark residents by selling the Camberwell site. It is short-sighted and amounts to little more than an attack on young people and learners in our borough.

"It is time for the minister and the FE Commissioner to stop propping up a college which is letting down our residents. The commissioner seems determined to put the interests of the college's managers over those of students and local employers. This is wrong and has to stop.

"We've been talking to big businesses and other education providers locally, and there's a huge amount of support for us to take the bull by the horns. We're determined to create a better route into work for people across the borough, not just get them to sign up for a course at a failing college because that's all there is. Southwark is brimming with opportunity and ambition and our residents deserve better."

Southwark Council is entitled to a seat on Lewisham Southwark College's corporation board, but it has not appointed anyone to the position since cabinet member Richard Livingstone left the governing body last autumn.

Newly published minutes of the May meeting of the corporation board shows that governors were so concerned by the poor relationship between the college and Southwark Council that they have added it to the organisation's risk register.

Meanwhile a planning application has now been submitted by Galliard Homes and Acorn Property for 66 homes on the Ufford Street side of the college's Waterloo campus.

As we reported earlier this year, the college received 14.5 million for the sale of this land.

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