East End’s college buildings could be sold, principal admits

The East End’s biggest college said it cannot rule out selling off some of its buildings as it faces cuts of 25 per cent in the next few years.

Michael Farley, principal of Tower Hamlets College, which has four centres, said education chiefs are “looking at our property strategy” after staff raised concerns about the future of the Arbour Square site.

He also conceded that adults learning English as an additional language will be left in a “vicious cycle” because the government is pushing colleges to spend more money on employment-geared courses and less on adult education.

His comments came after lecturers at the college expressed concern that the borough’s large Bangladeshi community would be left “on the scrap heap” through the changes.

Mr Farley said: “We are facing a reduction of 25 per cent over the next four years. The balance we have to make is to meet the government’s requirement of getting people into work and to meet the balance of what our community requires. Unfortunately the two don’t always match up.”

A group of lecturers lobbying to stop the closure of more Outreach centres, which hold the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes, said funding for the lessons has dropped by 30 per cent in the last two years.

One lecturer said: “Taking away ESOL funding is punishing the most vulnerable people, the most socially excluded and the most financially excluded.”

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But Mr Farley insisted ESOL was still a main concern.

He said: “Of course it’s a priority because it’s a need within the borough.”

There are currently 4,000 adults enrolled at the college, with 50 per cent taking ESOL classes.

The lecturers have also accused the college of trying to reduce the amount of adults - women in particular – accessing the lessons.

Last year the enrolment policy was changed, banning parents from bringing children to admissions day, which left many turned away, they said.

Mr Farley said: “Students were contacted in advance and advised not to bring children. It was about health and safety and trying to improve enrolment as in previous years there were young children running around the campus.

“It didn’t deter people. We’ve got more female students and as many Bangladeshi students as last year.”