Apologies are in order, first of all, to our friends and colleagues in the Save Wornington College Campaign for our recent exclusive focus on the truly terrible events at Grenfell Tower. This has caused us to somewhat neglect the Wornington issue, which is also dear to our hearts. However it has been, and remains, vitally important that we continue to prioritise the Grenfell Tower catastrophe and try our utmost to keeep it alive in the media and in the public mind. However, it hasn’t escaped our notice, and we are very pleased to see and to support the new Save Wornington College blog that has recently appeared at;
Ealing Hammersmith and West London College recently announced the much anticipated merger with Kensington & Chelsea College. They claim the merger will broaden the opportunities available to learners and help meet the future needs of employers across the region. Kensington and Chelsea College had earlier announced plans to increase the number of students in North Kensington, with modern facilities for both school-leavers and adults. According to KCC the plan for Wornington is for facilities on-site or nearby, allowing space for increased student numbers and more courses. The college, they say, is committed to staying in North Kensington where demand remains strong for student places. Michele Sutton, the interim principal of Kensington and Chelsea College, said:
“We are delighted to be able to announce the agreement to enter into this merger with a very strong, well-respected and successful neighbouring college. This announcement (will ensure) good provision in the borough while at the same time drawing on the resources of a larger organisation. We are looking forward to working closely together as this merger takes shape over the coming months and ensuring a smooth transition.”
This latest statement lacks any mention of provision in North Kensington and public consultation is not scheduled until January 2018, despite the fact that the decision to proceed with the merger has already been confirmed.
The local branch of the University and College Union (UCU), the largest trade union in the UK representing academics, lecturers, trainers, researchers and other academic staff in further and higher education, has responded to these developments by pouring cold water on the warm words of these college governors and their senior management teams.
The KCC branch of the UCU passed a motion on 5th July stating that:
This Branch considers that the recent round of cuts resulting in compulsory and voluntary redundancies was not carried out in accordance with established and lawful procedures.
- As more than 20 members of staff were/are at risk of redundancy and/or have been accepted for voluntary redundancy, we demand that the proper procedures be followed (as outlined in the UCU Branch email of 27th June concerning collective consultation).
- Those consultations already carried out were conducted improperly.
- Classes were closed prior to any ‘at risk’ members of staff having been made redundant and/or received voluntary redundancy.
- Potential students are being turned away, having been informed that classes will not take place. This is prior to any consultations having taken place and goes against the spirit and letter of redundancy consultation legislation and established practice.
- We are shocked and appalled that Senior Management fail(ed) to appreciate, or do not know, that the College is a public body.
- The Branch has received an inadequate response to concerns raised on the 23rd June regarding the decision to close maths for adults and regarding the College’s responsibilities under The Equality Act 2010.
- The ‘Equality Impact Statement’ shows contempt for the needs of the local community, especially in the North Kensington area, which is amongst the most socially and economically deprived in Britain.
We further demand:
- That all redundancy consultations be immediately halted
- That applications for courses in the curriculum areas under threat are processed. We have evidence that applicants are being referred to other Colleges and that applications have supposedly been ‘lost’.
We believe that the above is a deliberately managed decline, prior to the proposed merger/takeover of the College, in order that the College will seem more financially attractive. We believe that this is linked to the regeneration of the North Kensington area and increases the prospects that an asset strip might be appealing to a larger ‘partner’.
This Branch has no confidence in the Interim Senior Management because of past and present performance, we therefore mandate Branch Officers to seek immediate talks with the Chair of Governors to discuss staff concerns regarding Interim Senior Management performance and actions in order to seek ways forward for the general good of the College and its community.
The glaring disconnect between the reassuring PR statements coming from the management at EHWL and KCC, and the litany of redundancies, cancelled classes and other concerns raised by the University and College Union branch at KCC are alarming. The UCU motion speaks of ‘managed decline’ linked to the Council’s plans for the so-called ‘regeneration’ of North Kensington and refers also to asset stripping that will serve only the interests of the dominant ‘partner’ (ie EHWL). This in turn echoes the words of Tony Redpath, a senior RBKC officer seconded to the KCC Board, who warned in February of this year, following the collapse of the City Lit merger talks, that Ealing Hammersmith and West London College were ‘already circling’ and that KCC’s problem was that its attraction to larger Colleges was ‘based on its assets rather than it activities’.
We in the Grendfell Action Group have learned the hard way to be wary of the sweet talk of those in power whose statements we have far too often found to be duplicitous and deliberately misleading. We therefore fear that the new merger is in fact a hostile takeover by EHWL which is likely to involve further asset stripping and the loss of much , if not all, of KCC’s educational provision in North Kensington, which although vital to many local residents, may be a mere incumberance to the plans of the new improved college in which only the Chelsea centre may have any future value.
The Wornington centre having been sold off, and government funding radically cut, any reprovision of adult education in North Kensington will require significant new investment with no guarantee of the returns the new regime will be seeking. What are the chances they will take that gamble?