East Sussex College Group has confirmed it will be making redundancies across its four campuses as lower student numbers are putting pressure on its finances.
The group announced today (Wednesday, April 24) it will make 12.5 full-time equivalent teaching redundancies – four from the Hastings campus and 8.5 from Lewes, Newhaven and Eastbourne.
Staff and union consultations are underway on the proposed changes, and will run until early May.
While stakeholders, such as Ofsted, employers and the local authorities have seen positive progress in the college’s first academic year, lower student numbers mean that finances must continue to come under scrutiny.
Clive Cooke, chief executive officer of East Sussex College Group, said a thorough review of the long-term strategy of the merged colleges had reinforced the importance of sustainability and investment.
He said the priorities moving forward were to maintain a distinct educational character at each campus; ensure the A-level offer at Eastbourne and Hastings is sustainable and includes the most popular subject combinations; and ensure all programmes and pathways are cost-effective and clearly link to progression into Higher Education or employment.
He said: “This exciting work will take place over the next few months and will be rolled out in the 2020/21 prospectus and curriculum offer.
“But while the longer-term future of the group is more positive, there are some short-term challenges that must be resolved.
“We continue to manage our organisation with significantly reduced public funding, and 16-18 student enrolment numbers down by nearly 10 per cent in 2018/19, partly due to the demographics of a county-wide reduction in the number of school-leavers.”
Speaking about the importance of the future curriculum, Mr Cooke added: “It must not only be relevant and exciting, but – importantly – affordable.”
He said senior managers had completed a comprehensive curriculum planning process, resulting in a more streamlined offer for the 16-18 age group. The new curriculum would demonstrate clearer progression pathways for students.
A final important element of the overall group review was to compare its pay budget with similar sized colleges in England. This concluded that the current curriculum management costs were too high.
Mr Cooke said that the college group had to adjust its payroll to an affordable level while ensuring that the student experience remained paramount.
“Our aim is to keep redundancies to a minimum and to safeguard as many posts as possible,” he said. “It is clearly vital that the proposed changes have no negative impact on our students’ learning and success.”