EAB News 2007-12-07: Wedgewood Memorial College Review

The following announcement appears in the January 2008 issue of EAB Update.

Wedgwood Memorial College

Some readers will have heard from a variety of sources that there have been some uncertainties about the future of Wedgwood Memorial College, Barlaston (where EAB's headquarters Esperanto House is located). It may be helpful if I outline the situation, as best I can. I am writing this towards the end of November 2007 but things will certainly have moved on somewhat within the space of a few weeks.

Anyway - Jill Ward, Derek Tatton's successor as Principal of Wedgwood Memorial College, decided to resign in the Spring of 2007, to move to another post in a similar field (Lifelong Learning). The principal stakeholder in the College, Stoke-on-Trent City Council, decided to take the opportunity to undertake a review of the College's work and how well it related to the Council's wider mission; for that reason they did not immediately advertise for a replacement for Jill. The Review started during the summer of 2007 and was originally due to be complete in November, "or possibly December" 2007. At the time of writing, however, it is clear that the Review will not be finished before the year-end (or even later). I am sorry to say that the City (and its partners, Staffordshire County Council) did not see fit to tell us about this Review directly; we heard informally through the College staff. Needless to say, we have protested forcibly about this discourtesy. As a result, Derek Tatton (representing the Association) has had a meeting with a senior official from the Education Department, when all the major issues were thoroughly aired. In the meantime, the County commissioned NIACE (National Institute of Adult & Continuing Education) to undertake a short study of the College's provision. EAB has contributed to this study, with a substantial written submission and also through being represented by Joyce Bunting and Viv O'Dunne at a session of interviews in late November; I know, too, that a fair number of individual members (including myself) have responded personally to the letter from NIACE, which went out to a large number of people on the College's database. We have also, through Derek Tatton, kept in touch with other people and organisations with a keen interest in the outcome of the Review - for example the 'Friends of the College', of which some of you are members. So, as of end-November 2007, it looks as though the Review fieldwork is pretty well complete and it remains for officials to pull it all together and report to the relevant Committees of both Councils. I would hope [but cannot be sure) that some concrete outcome will be available sometime in January 2008.

The crucial fact to take on board, though, is that no decisions have been taken (despite alarmist rumours in some quarters!) and none will be taken before we know a great deal more about the options under consideration.

We do not know for sure what scenarios the Review is exploring. In theory, closure of the College could be one, but the unofficial indications are that they are thinking in terms of selling off some of the surplus land around the College, without interfering with its core operations. One of the major factors in their deliberations undoubtedly is that EAB have a 99-year lease on Esperanto House. To sell the land on which Esperanto House stands would mean re-negotiating the lease agreement, which would be a lengthy, complicated and, potentially, expensive process (expensive for the Councils, that is). However, nothing is certain until we see the outcome of the Review and, later, what the Councils decide on the basis of that outcome.

And that's about as much as I can tell you just now. As soon as anything more definite is available, we shall of course keep everyone informed through EAB Update. In the meantime, if anyone has any specific questions, please get in touch with me at davidekelso@yahoo.co.uk or by post at my home address (below). I wish you all a very happy new year!

David Kelso - Secretary, Esperanto-Asocio de Britio
5 Craigenhill Road, Kilncadzow, Carluke, MLS 4QT

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