THE majority of the Hartford campus of Warrington and Vale Royal College is set to be closed down and 56 members of staff will be made redundant.

The college announced the move today as ‘part of exciting plans’.

The campus, which opened in 1981 as Mid Cheshire College, will be closed almost entirely from September – leaving only the ‘engineering and advanced manufacturing’ course operating out of Hartford.

Staff at the college were informed at 1pm today.

It follows the merging of Mid Cheshire College with Warrington Collegiate in August last year.

Announcing what the college describes as a ‘re-shape of its Vale Royal estate’, a spokesman for Warrington and Vale Royal College said that the decision was made due to the Hartford campus being ‘seriously under-utilised’.

The spokesman said: “Warrington & Vale Royal College is set to re-shape the Vale Royal estate and operational aspects of the organisation as part of exciting plans for an enhanced post 16 offer for the Winsford community.

“Throughout this first transition year of the merger between Warrington Collegiate and Mid Cheshire College, the college has been committed to improving the learning experience for students across all its campuses whilst carefully monitoring current and prospective student recruitment, and changes to income and costs.

“Significant work has been undertaken to market the curriculum, however, the college’s income is set to reduce and a review of the college’s estate has shown that the college’s Hartford campus is seriously under-utilised.”

The college confirmed that the majority of courses on offer at Hartford will move to its Winsford campus from September 2018, with some also moved to Warrington.

“As stated in our original merger proposal, we committed to the consolidation of our estate and in-parallel, curriculum specialisation to match the Local Enterprise Partnership’s strategic economic priorities and raise skill levels in response to the government’s Industrial Strategy. This, in turn, will facilitate investment in specialist, ‘best in class’ facilities and resources to meet and exceed industry standards.

“This is part of our strategy to re-shape the Vale Royal aspect of the college’s operation and estate, focusing on Winsford as the primary location. We have been working closely with key stakeholders in the Winsford area who have embraced the college in their plans for the re-generation of the town, to which the college is entirely committed. 

“In keeping with the aims of the area based review, we will ensure that Warrington & Vale Royal College is financially sustainable and readily able to respond to any challenges ahead, meeting economic and skills priorities and the needs of the communities we serve, both now and in the future. Above all we aim to provide an excellent learning experience and a breadth of provision across the college estate, providing a range of clear progression routes at all levels, from Entry upwards, into positive destinations, higher level study and/or fulfilling careers.

“We have commenced a consultation with staff and trade unions about these proposals to achieve a strong and sustainable future for the college and to ensure that staffing levels are appropriate. 56 full time equivalents (FTE) out of 390 FTE are at risk but wherever possible, volunteers for redundancy from the affected employees will be sought to mitigate the need for compulsory redundancies”.

“There is an open evening at the Winsford Campus on Tuesday, March 20, 5.30pm to 8pm. I would urge prospective students and parents to come along to this event, meet staff, take a look around our fantastic facilities and find out more about our vision for Warrington & Vale Royal College.

“We are writing to all our learners, parents, applicants and stakeholders to inform them of the changes and are holding information evenings over the next few weeks.”

Weaver Vale Labour MP Mike Amesbury has responded to the news by blaming the government’s ‘failed austerity agenda’.

Mike said: “This is yet another example of this government’s failed experiment of austerity and its catastrophic impact on the education sector.

“The reality is that an eight-year programme of cuts is hitting the further education sector up and down the country.

“I have had an urgent discussion with the principal of the college asking her and the governors to think again to protect students, courses and staff and retain facilities in Northwich.

“Furthermore, I will also be seeking an urgent meeting with the leader of the council and other stakeholders to see if we can do anything to reverse this decision at this late hour and also raising this in Parliament with the Secretary of State for Education.”

Antoinette Sandbach, Conservative MP for Eddisbury, added: “This will be a concerning time for staff based at the Hertford campus, but as the MP for Eddisbury, I will continue to fight for increased high quality educational provision in Winsford.”