Three Shropshire colleges announce merger plan

Three colleges in Shropshire have announced a proposal to merge.

Shrewsbury College, Shrewsbury Sixth Form College and New College in Telford plan to create a single sixth form college group.

The three principals said it would "pre-empt" government plans "to create fewer and larger colleges nationally" and create "curriculum specialisms".

The colleges admitted the proposal, in which each site would remain, may not safeguard all 650 jobs.

They said "cost savings would be inevitable in this climate", though it was "too early to say what any job cuts or changes may look like".

Consultation is due to begin with staff early next year ahead of a planned launch from 1 August 2016.

Under the plan, each college site would keep its name while students would still apply to each separately.

More on this story and others across Shropshire.

The plan replaces an idea for a federation, which was mooted previously, but ruled out for being "difficult to achieve" and having "limited opportunities to improve financial performance".

Steve Wain, principal of Shrewsbury College, Martin Ward, principal of Shrewsbury Sixth Form College and Fiona O'Brien of New College in Telford released a joint statement.

"The proposal includes plans to create several centres of excellence," it said.

Students at all three colleges would be able to continue their courses at their chosen colleges, with the earliest changes taking place in 2017/18.

The colleges would consult on a new name for the overall group to be run by a chief executive working with the separate principals.

A government spokesman said: "Through our area reviews, we are reforming post-16 education and training so that it more closely meets local employers' needs, while ensuring young people, wherever they come from, have a fair shot at success.

"As part of this, we would expect institutions to proactively consider how to ensure their future provision meets local need."

Telford College already has a partnership with the University of Wolverhampton.

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