Losing Soundwell campus is ‘unthinkable’, say local councillors who urge a rethink after college’s closure announcement

Councillors Shirley Potts & Ian Boulton

Councillors Shirley Potts & Ian Boulton

The announcement by City of Bristol College this week that its campus in Soundwell will close at the end of the academic year in July has been met with shock and dismay.

And today local councillors said they would do all they could to get the college to reconsider its decision which is “part of plans to refocus resources”.

The college is planning to put the site, which was built in the 1960s, up for sale. E Block was constructed just nine years ago.

All courses will be relocating to existing college centres, “offering better accommodation, improved facilities and an enriched student experience”, said the college in a statement.

City of Bristol College is one of the largest further and higher education colleges in the UK with more than 2,000 courses available from entry level courses to degrees. It has more than 30,000 learners and employs over 2,200 staff.

Last summer Ofsted said the college required improvement, with the proportion of learners completing their courses successfully varying considerably, and success rates mostly lower than those in similar colleges.

Learners’ attendance was said to be low in a number of subject areas and punctuality often poor. The inspectors also said provision for work experience outside the college was insufficient, the development of English and maths skills wasn’t good enough, and teachers did not plan well enough to challenge all learners in lessons.

This week City of Bristol College principal Lynn Merilion said: “As we continue to work to ensure that all City of Bristol College students benefit from outstanding teaching, learning and assessment, it is right that we make best use of the resources we have.

“In recent years, the college has built some fantastic new campuses in the north of the city and in the south which has given us this opportunity to relocate curriculum closer to employers. We also have excellent facilities at our College Green site in the heart of the city centre and a large amount of space at our Ashley Down campus due to the relocation of curriculum.

college logo“No students or staff will be affected by the closure this academic year. We will be working with students and their parent/carers who are continuing their courses or who are joining us in September to ensure that they are able to travel to their new centre of study.

“Over the coming weeks we will be arranging tours for students to get to know their new centre in good time for the start of the next academic year.”

In a joint statement today, local councillors Ian Boulton and Shirley Potts said: “We have only just learnt that City of Bristol College plans to move out of Soundwell later this year.

“We strongly oppose this and will do all we can to get the college to reconsider.

“Losing such an important facility for our young people is unthinkable.  If you would be affected by this closure please tell us how, so that we can speak up for you.

“We will also be talking urgently to other local schools and colleges to ensure that our school leavers can still access the training they need and do not suffer the loss of courses or opportunities in our area.”

Cllr Boulton can be contacted by email at  Ian.Boulton@southglos.gov.uk