Up to 40 jobs at East Sussex colleges are under threat, it has been announced today (November 6).
East Sussex College Group (ESCG) – which comprises Sussex Coast College (SCC) and Sussex Downs College (SDC) – has announced there are 13 classroom support staff and 26 admin roles under review in a bid to save money.
All teaching posts are currently being safeguarded, it said.
The group currently employs 713 full time staff and has campuses in Eastbourne, Hastings, Lewes, and Newhaven after the two colleges merged in March this year.
It says talks are underway with unions and staff to explore alternatives to redundancies, including redeployment. The College says it is committed to completing this with ‘sensitivity and diplomacy’.
A spokesperson said, “The review of staffing numbers comes at a time of continued financial austerity.
“Government funding for colleges around the country has been trimmed by a further eight per cent for 16-18 year olds and 30 per cent for adults.”
ESCG said it is ‘getting its finances in order’ after the merger of Sussex Downs and Sussex Coast colleges earlier this year ‘highlighted payroll costs at SCC were slightly above the sector average’.
But at Sussex Downs College, it said payroll costs were ‘significantly higher’ and did not reflect its falling income based on historic drops in student numbers and cut-backs in Government grants.
Clive Cooke, chief executive officer of ESCG, said, “The merger has undoubtedly made us stronger and will ensure we deliver excellent academic and vocational training to meet the needs of today’s students and local employers.
“The new leadership team is creating a dynamic and future-focused organisation to better serve the needs of our local communities.”
He added, “This does, however, mean tackling difficult and sensitive issues, including the need to streamline our teams to reflect current and future local needs and ensure our College prospers in a challenging funding environment.
“We are committed to sitting down with our colleagues and union representatives to make these changes with compassion and understanding.”
This comes as the college group said feedback from a consultation has identified a demand for new courses in areas such as advanced manufacturing, robotics, surveying and digital marketing; and for more emphasis on popular subjects like Visual and Performing Arts, Psychology, Forensic Science, Computing, Film, and Construction.
The feedback also highlighted a drop in levels of interest in some of the more traditional courses, which ESCG said it will review and reshape.
The call for changes is set against a backdrop of an improved A-Level performance in the last academic year, but falling numbers of 16-18 year-olds across East and West Sussex over the last 10 years.