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Hundreds turn out at Town Hall meeting to save Stourbridge College

By Jordan Reynolds | Stourbridge | Education | Published:

Students, parents, staff and union leaders have united to voice their concerns over the planned closure of Stourbridge College.

Councillor Pete Lowe, centre, with union representatives at Stourbridge Town Hall

Cash-strapped Birmingham Metropolitan College (BMet) announced earlier this month that the college will close this summer.

BMet, one of the largest further education colleges in the country, has spent millions upgrading facilities at the college since it took it over in 2013 but has struggled after being rated "requires improvement" by Ofsted in three successive inspections.

The college group owes millions to the Government after being bailed out and has held a government notice of concern for financial health since July 2015.

Outrage

As a result the Hagley Road site is set to be sold off, with students moving to Dudley and Halesowen from September.

At a union-organised public meeting at Stourbridge Town Hall on Wednesday, Conservative local MP Margot James said she was outraged by BMet's poor financial management.

"I'm outraged by what BMet has done to build up an unsustainable debt," she said.

Margot James at the meeting in Stourbridge Town Hall

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"I'm trying to find out more about the finances and I will continue to report back to the community.

"If we continue to get outstanding questions then there should be an inquiry.

"I supported the merger because of the investment that was promised.

"I'm focused on protecting the jobs and securing the ongoing education of the students."

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Longer journeys

Max, an IT student at the college, said his commute would more than double due to the move.

He said: "At the moment my bus takes 40 minutes but if I have to go to Dudley it would take me two hours. That is one lesson."

Around 200 people attended the town hall meeting

Meanwhile a member of staff, who did not want to be named, said she had accepted redundancy but that the process had "left a nasty taste in their mouths".

She said: "I feel like we've been really kept in the dark about things, there's been no transparency.

"Before you know it, it's August 1, that's only three pay packets between announcing it and closing.

"I took redundancy because I didn't think I would have been offered the preferred college I'd have wanted to go to.

Stourbridge College on Hagley Road

"Stourbridge staff pride themselves in being a family and supporting our students and we do genuinely put the students first.

"We're having to remain very professional and it's difficult."

Petition

Former Dudley Council leader Pete Lowe called on residents to sign a petition asking for a consultation to be launched on the future of the college, and to join a protest on the streets of Stourbridge.

So far more than 600 people have signed the petition, which was set up by Councillor Chris Barnett.

Councillor Lowe said: "Stourbridge College matters. It matters for the trade unions, for the staff, for the students both past and present.

"Words are simply not enough. We've got to get to August 1 and ensure that the gates remain open.

"Our education is not for sale."

This sign was put up in the windows of Stourbridge College

Councillor Barnett said he had received a call from a student and her mother both in tears.

He said: "The daughter got an apprenticeship at Carillion, then was lucky enough to get a place at Stourbridge College, and said she didn't want to continue now.

"I can't tell you how annoyed I was for them."

One parents told the meeting her son did not get any sleep the night after he found out the college was closing.

She said: "My son has special educational needs, even his SEN teacher didn't know about it."

Jordan Reynolds

By Jordan Reynolds
Reporter - @jreynolds_star

Senior reporter at the Express & Star.

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