Consideration was given to a report which proposed the creation of a Further Education Taskforce to bring together key stakeholders across the District to consider further education provision, within the context of the wider education and skills agenda.
In presenting the report, Officers outlined recent circumstances, which had seen the proposal arise, namely the Lincoln College Group’s public announcement of their intention to vacate the Gainsborough site. They would retain ownership but the provision of their further education, in particular education courses such as “Made in Gainsborough” and similar would be relocated to other campuses in Newark or Lincoln.
The Task Force, in effect, a working group, would report to this Committee and comprise Member representation but also representation from education providers, including Lincoln College Group, but also other providers operating in the West Lindsey area, or those which had a direct correlation or link to West Lindsey.
Key functions of the Further Education Task Force were highlighted to the committee and included : -
· to help and understand the impact of the change to the users of the Gainsborough College site, to understand the impact on current young people and future generations? but also to understand the impact on the town and the wider District as well.
· Having gained an understanding, to look at future actions, recommendations and potential proposals for the future, either for the District Council directly or how the District Council could work with education providers in the District area.
Officers further outlined the wider challenges affecting further education provision and the negative impacts seen as a result of the Pandemic. Further education, in many settings, did need to be a commercially viable operation, and needed to be able to demonstrate that it could sustain itself with the students on-roll and income generation.
Finally, Members were advised that the report included background information setting out the ways in which the Council had supported further education and Lincoln College in recent years and Officers spoke of their disappointment and shock given the District Council’s proactive approach over a number of years. The Made in Gainsborough programme had been a real success in supporting young people in Gainsborough to access education and support them on into employment.
Since the announcement, Officers had tried to engage and work with Lincoln College Group to explore every possible option to seek to retain the Gainsborough College site.
The Appendix to the report set out draft Terms of Reference for the Task Force, for approval.
Debate ensued and many Members spoke of their disappointment at the decision to withdraw provision from Gainsborough, the uncertainty it placed on school leavers and how for some, a course in Lincoln, Scunthorpe or Newark was not financially feasible and/or practicable due to travelling, limiting opportunity.
Whilst disappointing it also presented opportunities, to understand the needs of Gainsborough and surrounding area, to look at alternative provision, to change the perception of the site, and its level of attainment, citing evening classes or basic GCSE Maths and English, which opened the door to many a job.
The work of the Council’s Officer, Amanda Bouttell, was praised by Members, recognising the hours of work dedicated to supporting careers fayres, working with the Gainsborough Academy, and the development of “The Made in Gainsborough” Programme.
Clarification was sought as to whether Member positions would be filled at the evening’s meeting, filled at the next meeting, or whether a further recommendation was required to delegate this to Officers to complete outside of the meeting.
Councillor Mrs Rollings was proposed and seconded.
A number of other names were suggested based on expertise in the field, however, not all of those suggested were present at the meeting and not all suggestions made, would fulfil the criteria in the Terms of Reference. The Committee recognised the risk of appointing persons who had not been first consulted but all agreed that appointments should be based on expertise and interest.
Given comments made and points noted during the discussion the following amendments to the Terms of Reference were agreed by consent of the meeting: -
At 3.3 – the following be added to the list: -
· West Lindsey District Council Officers
The following be amended at 3.3 - to add the words shown in italic
· 1 x Ward Member for Gainsborough/ (or a Ward within close proximity of Gainsborough
The following be amended at 5.3 to be in line with the recommendation –
· The Further Education Taskforce will report to the Prosperous Communities Committee: every quarter (not 6 months)
To allow appointments to be made outside of the meeting, the following additional recommendation was proposed and seconded, and on being put to the vote was supported.
“The Director of Planning, Regeneration and Communities, in consultation with the Chairman of this Committee seek nominations for representatives to serve on the Further Education Taskforce, in line with the agreed terms of reference.”
It was unanimously RESOLVED that
(a) a Further Education Taskforce for West Lindsey be established with Terms of Reference, as amended above;
(b) a quarterly update report from the Further Education Taskforce be received by the Prosperous Communities Committee on a quarterly basis; and
(c) the Director of Planning, Regeneration and Communities, in consultation with the Chairman of this Committee seek nominations for representatives to serve on the Further Education Taskforce, in line with the agreed terms of reference, including the appointment of Councillor Mrs L Rollings made during the meeting.