The Government has announced that the East Sussex College Group and both Lewes and Eastbourne councils are their ‘preferred partners’ after the college and councils made a joint bid to take over troubled UTC (University Technology College) in Newhaven.
In close liaison with Maria Caulfield, MP for Lewes, the college and council senior teams acted quickly following the announcement by Lord Agnew, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System, that funding for the UTC was being terminated with a view to closure by August 2019.
Subsequently, an expression of interest was submitted to the Department of Education and this has now been formally accepted as the basis for further negotiations.
Dan Shelley, Executive Director of Strategic Partnerships and Engagement, East Sussex College Group, said: “This is just one small step in a longer process, yet I am absolutely delighted that the Government has chosen to work with ourselves and our partners at Lewes and Eastbourne councils.
“Together with East Sussex County Council, Newhaven Enterprise Zone and other local stakeholder groups, we will work tirelessly to make the site and the training fit for purpose.
“There is still a long way to go with negotiations with the Department of Education, but I am very hopeful we can achieve the various agreements needed and ensure UTC becomes the heartbeat of quality learning for young people and adults that it was always intended to be.
“I would also like to thank Maria Caulfield for her steadfast support and determination to create a new beginning for UTC.”
Ms Caulfield said: “I am delighted that the Government have chosen East Sussex College Group and Lewes and Eastbourne Councils as their preferred partner to take over the UTC in August 2019. This is excellent news for Newhaven and young people in the town who will be looking to go to college.
“Whilst there is still more work to do this is a very encouraging step closer to ensuring college provision in Newhaven and goes hand in hand with my work to regenerate Newhaven into a more vibrant and thriving community.”
As part of the joint bid a detailed feasibility study was started to assess the full scope of what level and type of education is best delivered across the UTC site. This work is ongoing and will include further consultation with stakeholders in the community to ensure the right mix of provision is achieved.
Cllr Andy Smith, Leader of Lewes District Council, said: “This is astoundingly good news for Newhaven and for families across the wider district.
“The council is driving forward with numerous commercial developments and initiatives in Newhaven and learning and skills are fundamental to this broad strategic plan.
“East Sussex College Group is a much valued partner of the council and I look forward to continuing our work with them and other local organisations that share our ambitions for Newhaven.”
Last summer governors at UTC announced ‘with huge disappointment’ it was to close because of a shortage of students needed to become financially viable. It came amid reports of ‘chaotic leadership and frequent bullying’.