Education chiefs 'plan to sell off adult learning college'

EDUCATION chiefs are planning to sell off Britain's oldest adult learning college to pay for new houses and new library centre, the Advertiser has discovered. A campaign by tutors and adult students to save Bethnal Green College began after details were leaked that it was to be used by children while their school was being renovated

EXCLUSIVE By Michael Parker

EDUCATION chiefs are planning to sell off one of Britain's oldest adult learning colleges to pay for new houses and a new Idea Store library centre, the Advertiser has discovered.

A campaign by tutors and adult students to save Bethnal Green Centre in London's East End began last month when details were leaked that the building was to be used by school children instead, while their school nearby was being renovated.

The children's services director at Tower Hamlets has told MP George Galloway the future of the centre is 'limited.'

Kevan Collins wrote in a letter to the Bethnal Green and Bow MP: "Yes, there are plans for the future use of the Bethnal Green Centre and for eventual disposal of the building."

His letter adds: "The disposal would provide part of the capital for the development of a regeneration and housing project including a new Idea Store in Bethnal Green."

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But the Town Hall later denied this meant there were "definite plans."

The revelation has fuelled anger by staff and students, who discovered all daytime courses would stop in the summer to make way for pupils from nearby Bethnal Green Technology College in September while their school is revamped.

Classroom courses such as literacy or IT would continue as usual at the nearby Rich Mix arts centre.

But practical courses needing workshops and equipment such as upholstery, woodwork and car maintenance would be hit.

Union secretary Roberto Foth, representing teaching lecturers at the centre in Bethnal Green-road, said: "Staff and students doubt the sincerity of the council's commitment to keeping courses running, not least because people felt they have been kept in the dark."

The Town Hall said c

Ceramics courses would move to the Shadwell centre, music courses to Bethnal Green's Oxford House and weightlifting would continue as usual.

Other courses would have to be squeezed in around existing evening classes at Bethnal Green.

Clair Hawkins, the Tower Hamlets councillor in charge of education, told furious adult students and teachers at an open ,meeting when she visited on March 20 that no decision had yet been made.

Jewellery student Tilly Langton, 25, said: "She was a bit taken aback by the strength of feeling. The meeting was pretty heated and people were really angry."

Cllr Hawkins refused to speak to the Advertiser.

But her council cabinet colleague Josh Peck, Labour's finance chief on the authority, said it was "unhelpful" if council officers were presenting the case as a 'done deal'.