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Merger of two Walsall colleges set to move a step closer

Walsall | Education | Published:

Walsall Adult and Community College's planned cost cutting merger with Walsall College is set to move a step closer this week, it can be revealed.

Walsall College

The merger will impact around 5,000 students who currently study at the community college but it is unknown if any of the 150 jobs will be affected.

It is planned the two colleges will come together to 'reduce overlap’, share services and slash costs.

Walsall Council is set to give its approval to the potential merger being explored at a cabinet meeting on Thursday. The authority is currently in a partnership with the community college and has been since 2010, but new guidelines means this can no longer continue.

Previously the council would receive the funding for the community college from the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) before passing it on to the college as part of a sub-contracting arrangement.

But new guidance released by the SFA deems the relationship between the council and community college does not constitute sub-contracting and that a solution needs to be found by March 31 2018 or the SFA will withdraw its funding, putting the college's future at risk.

The solution the council is proposing, and is set to approve this week, is that the college merges with another SFA grant funding organisation, namely Walsall College.

The merger was suggested by the Department for Education earlier this year.

Despite the clear step forward, both Walsall College and Walsall Adult and Community College (WACC) insist any move is far from complete.

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A joint statement released to the Express & Star by Jatinder Sharma, the principal and chief executive of Walsall College, and Jev Bhalla, the principal at WACC, states: “The Black Country Post-16 Area Review report recommended that Walsall College and Walsall Adult and Community College explore the potential for partnership and collaborative working. Walsall Council’s Cabinet will consider a report recommending that a potential merger between the two colleges should be explored.

“If this proposal is approved, both colleges together with Walsall Council will engage in initial discussions to explore the possibility of forming a closer working relationship.

“As yet no decisions have been made. Both colleges will work together to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the all possible options that, following a public consultation, could lead to partnership work that is in the best interests of students and stakeholders.”

This is the second merger Walsall College has been linked with. It had previously been expected that the college would merge with South Staffordshire College to help the latter out financially but this fell through.

WACC offers training and courses in a variety of subjects for adults across the borough. It aims to target those 'furthest away from life opportunities' with 73,000 people currently living in Walsall not having a qualification above level 1.

Jack Averty

By Jack Averty
Senior Reporter - @javerty_star

Reporter with the Express & Star, based at head office in Wolverhampton

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