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Further Education: Sittingbourne

Volume 485: debated on Monday 15 December 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) when the Learning and Skills Council will announce its decisions on a further education college in Sittingbourne; (243209)

(2) when the Learning and Skills Council began work to identify a site for a further education college in Sittingbourne;

(3) who is responsible for deciding whether to establish a further education college in Sittingbourne.

I have been asked to reply.

As the statutory planning body for post 16 education and skills, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) is responsible for assessing the need for further education (FE) in each locality. Although the LSC, working with local partners, has identified a need for some additional FE provision in Sittingbourne, the evidence suggests that there is insufficient demand for a new FE college.

Canterbury and Mid-Kent Colleges continue to play a major role in offering FE to learners in Sittingbourne, along with the local schools, the new Sittingbourne Skills Centre and the new Minster Academy which is expected to offer a wide range of vocational opportunities. Canterbury College, together with Swale borough council, is investigating whether there is scope for the college to have an additional presence in the area as part of the town’s regeneration plans including looking at possible sites. If the college concludes this to be appropriate, it will consult locally before putting a case to the LSC for consideration. A proposal is unlikely before Easter 2009.

The power to establish FE colleges lies with the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills consulting with the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and is contained within section 16 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992. Such decisions usually follow proposals made by the LSC. In the event of a proposal for an existing college to locate a new site in Sittingbourne, the Secretary of State has no role in the decision. This is for the college concerned with the support of the LSC.