College close to bursting point

HUNDREDS of students could be taught in warehouses, forced to travel daily to other schools or face a massive rise in class sizes - because the town s community college is bursting at the seams.

HUNDREDS of students could be taught in warehouses, forced to travel daily to other schools or face a massive rise in class sizes - because the town's community college is bursting at the seams.

A school governor has warned that could be the fate of sixth formers within just five years if Rolle Campus is not bought for post-16 education by the county council.

Ray Davison, vice-chairman of governors at Exmouth Community College, said the school expected the sixth form to increase by more than 300 students by 2014.

The school was already looking at contingency plans to cope with the influx, he said.

Renting a Liverton Business Park warehouse to hold vocational courses was one idea being floated.

Sending students by bus to undersubscribed schools has also been discussed.

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An alternative was for class sizes to increase to cope with the extra demand for pupil places.

Mr Davison said: "Maybe the county think we can cope with the existing framework.

"You cannot just double a class size. They are not being realistic and they don't know how schools work."

The county council director of children and young people's services, Ingrid Fisher, rubbished the governor's concerns. "We need flexibility and innovation," she said. "We don't anticipate capacity will be over-strained by the demand."

College governor and district council portfolio for housing Jill Elson said 800 families were waiting for council homes in Exmouth. Rolle College could provide education 'from the cradle to the grave', she said.

Councillor Elson said: "Are we going to tell people they cannot live in the Exmouth area because there is no education provision?"

Exmouth Community College governors predict:

l The sixth form will grow to over 800 - currently 531 - due to Government plans to raise the school leaving age in 2013 from 16 to 19.

l With an average of 60 per cent of community college pupils opting for the sixth form, there would be an extra 160 students a year in 2013 and 2014 - a total of 320.

l The surplus 320 may be asked to travel to under-subscribed PFI (Private Finance Initiative) schools in Exeter, or colleges at Ottery St Mary, Axminster, Honiton or Sidmouth.

l Unless alternative arrangements are made, students will have nowhere to go.

The council went back on a verbal pledge to help buy part of Rolle College from owners Plymouth University.

It decided not to buy because: Exeter College has gone into partnership with Bicton College; doubts over Exmouth Community College being able to afford to run it; Plymouth University's unwillingness to include certain buildings in the sale, and the lack of cash at the Learning and Skills Council, which was to fund the refurbishment.

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