Parents quiz college governors after closure

Joseph Priestley College on Peel Street.
Joseph Priestley College on Peel Street.
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Upset parents confronted Leeds City College governors about the closure of its Joseph Priestley campus at Morley Town Hall last Wednesday.

At an occasionally tense public meeting, representatives of the college and local councillors blamed the now confirmed closure on deep government cuts to further education and repeated that £11m worth of savings had to be made to its slashed budget.

The panel took questions from parents, some of whom said their children had already been offered places at the college.

Vice chair of governors Tina Turnbull said: “The board hated the decision it had to make, I was almost in tears. I found it a horrible position to be in as a governor. We had to make reductions so we can carry on as an organisation. Whatever we do we must keep some things (college provision) in Morley.”

Brian Brock, a governor with a 34 year association with the college, said: “The public don’t realise what they will lose if they lose further education.

“The problem is the politicians don’t get it. None of them are even talking about it. The argument (for further education) is going to be won by the community because it’s your asset at the end of the day.”

Letters have been sent to staff who have lost their jobs as a result of the closure, though a number of courses and provision have been transferred to Leeds City College’s other campuses, including Beeston. However, the University and College Lecturers’ Union (UCU) have criticised the college for the timing of the redundancy notices, which they say have come too late for many.

Wendy Brown, whose 16 year-old daughter Ashleigh was originally offered a place on the health and social care course at the campus, told the panel her family were looking to move out of Leeds as a result of the closure, because she was unhappy about the provision being moved to the Beeston campus. She later told the Observer: “It’s just a nightmare. When we visited the Joseph Priestley campus to look round we just felt so comfortable and the staff were so friendly.” Mrs Brown also criticised the college for failing to directly contact her.

She said: “We only found out it was going to close last weekend when Ashleigh’s friend was handed a flyer about it in Morley Town Centre. I don’t understand the mentality of leaving it this late to let parents know.

“But the government say you’ve got to carry on in education until you’re 18 and yet they’re cutting it. It just doesn’t make sense.”