Fresh fears raised about Stourbridge College merger after bosses refuse to publish local exam results (From Stourbridge News)
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Fresh fears raised about Stourbridge College merger after bosses refuse to publish local exam results
8:30am Thursday 5th September 2013 in News
FRESH fears have been raised about the “rushed” take-over of Stourbridge College by the ever expanding Birmingham Metropolitan College.
As the new academic year begins the deal which saw the transfer of Stourbridge College’s property, assets and rights is coming under closer scrutiny as are the ramifications for future generations of Stourbridge students.
B-MET, which now has 35,000 students and is one of the largest further education colleges in the country, confirmed it will not release results for individual campuses leaving students, parents and local businesses clueless about the academic performance of the Stourbridge campus.
A spokesman for B-Met said: “Birmingham Metropolitan College presents all of its data as one return and does not publish individual campus data, as this allows for a clear picture of the overall performance of the organisation to be publicly available.”
Dudley’s cabinet member for children’s services, councillor Tim Crumpton, said he was “deeply disappointed” that localised results had not been published.
University and College Union regional officer Nick Varney also slammed B-Met’s stance.
He said:“We had concerns at the time of this rushed merger but unfortunately we lost the argument and it went ahead.
“People in Stourbridge see the college as their community college and want to know about its performance and not the performance of a huge operation like B-Met.”
He added: “I do not understand why B-Met will not release the results by venue because every lecturer would know the results of their group so it is not hard to find out Stourbridge’s results.
“If this year’s results are not released then it will be impossible to see if results have improved or declined as a result of the merger.
“Under this Government if two college’s governing bodies fancy merging they can and unlike before they do not need the consent of a minister and B-Met taking over Stourbridge is the first time it has happened.”
A letter has surfaced from the Government minister responsible for colleges, Matthew Hancock MP, outlining deep concerns about the merger earlier this year.
He said: “I am not convinced by the rationale set out in the consultation document that this would represent the best outcomes for learners in the local area.
“Nor does their consultation document provide assurance to me that the corporation has undertaken the open and transparent processes that we would expect in terms of analysing needs, identifying options to meet these needs, engaging with stakeholders and, critically, securing the most effective partnerships and delivery options for the future.”
However, The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills was assured the merger would not advesely effect local education.
A spokesman said: “Stourbridge Corporation responded constructively to the concerns of the minister in demonstrating why it considered the merger to be the best option for learners, local employers and the community.
"The Skills Funding Agency has put in place conditions of funding to enable it to assure itself that adequate provision is being made in the Stourbridge area."
The deputy leader of Dudley Council, Lye Councillor Pete Lowe, hopes Stourbridge students will have the same access to courses as before the merger.
He said: “We are monitoring the situation at the college closely as we do not want to see courses relocated to campuses in Birmingham which obviously would be bad for the town.
“Whichever organisation is running the college we want to ensure that it provides top class education that we can all be proud of.”
B-Met confirmed there will be internal changes at the college but denied this will mean job losses.
The spokesman said: “The college is always reviewing its operation so as to effectively manage its provision and deliver the highest quality education opportunities for its learners.
“Following the merger we will put the most appropriate structures in place to manage our operations. We will carefully review any opportunities as they arise.
“Birmingham Metropolitan College is committed to consolidating its position as the leading FE provider in the region, delivering excellent learning opportunities for everyone.”
Former Stourbridge principal Lynette Cutting is now deputy principal of B-Met and the day to day running of the Stourbridge campus is now in the hands of campus manager Louise Jones.
B-Met refused to reveal the taxpayer-paid salary of Mrs Cutting - with the college saying simply “her reimbursement package remains the same as it was prior to merger”.
A spokesman added: “The college is committed to the government’s transparency agenda and complies with all financial regulations.”
However, the term “the package remaining the same” does not mean Mrs Cutting has not had a pay rise due to the merger of the two public bodies.
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