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'Lambeth College sale detrimental to adult learners'

FACING CLOSURE: Lambeth College’s Brixton campus will be sold off

PLANS TO replace the only adult learning facility in Brixton with a “Catholic ethos” free school have sparked a public outcry in the borough.

Angry Brixton residents and staff of Lambeth College (Brixton Campus), which they say is due to be partially sold for £18 million, have aired their discontent through a series of demonstrations.

According to reports, the college that was established in the 1960s, will be downsized by 70 per cent, retaining only a small on-site facility, and will be replaced by Trinity Academy – a Catholic free school.

The college has defended its plans, insisting that it will improve services.

But campaigners have insisted that reducing student capacity will be “detrimental” to the community.

EDUCATION

Mandy Brown, English as a second language teacher (ESOL) and branch secretary of the University and College Union, said: “We are trying to put pressure on [education secretary Michael] Gove to back off, because this is the only place in Brixton that provides adult education. It is a multicultural borough and we’ve got black youth unemployment at over 60 per cent. We need more provision not less.”

Community activist Lee Jasper stressed that the area does not need another Catholic school.

“The Catholic diocese bishop has said we don’t need another free school, they’ve got two in the area that are undersubscribed,” he argued. “The millions Gove is planning to sink into this Catholic school can be used to refurbish Lambeth College,” he added.

Akua Rutt, who has been teaching at Lambeth College since 1990, described the institution as an “empowerment for local working class and BME residents” because it “gave adults a second chance.”


OPPOSITION: Akua Rutt says the college provides a valuable service for adult learners

“I have taught many people from low income families, who were forced to leave school at 16. The college gives them the opportunity to complete their education in their 20s and 30s,” Rutt explained.

She added: “Every day people stop me in the street and say, it is because of your GCSE class that I became a lawyer or a surgeon or landed a top administrative position in the NHS.”

IMPORTANCE

In further highlighting the importance of the college, Rutt continued: “I had a 17-year-old black woman with a child, who was always on time and never missed a class. She is now a midwife.”

Furthermore Rutt said busy, low-income earners would not have the time or money to travel outside the area.
Jasper added: “Can you really see our children traveling to other parts of the borough given the postcode rivalry? We have to save this college.”

However, Mark Silverman, principal and chief executive of Lambeth College, said the changes are necessary.

He explained: “The current Brixton centre was built in the 1960s, is in poor condition and is simply too expensive to maintain. The sale of the site effectively ensures we can continue to have a presence in Brixton for many years to come and that the long-term future of Lambeth College as a whole is more assured.”

COMMUNITY

He added: “The new Brixton centre will be smaller than the current centre, but it will be modern and fit for purpose, delivering English, Maths, ESOL, adult community learning and employability courses.

“The new Brixton centre will be in a state-of-the-art new building and will enhance the college’s already close links with Jobcentre Plus and Lambeth Council.”

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