Keep our 'dirty' classes at UK's oldest adult education centre!
PUBLISHED: 21:28 28 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:09 05 October 2010
Dear Editor, I AM a member of the newly formed Association of Dirty Classes at the Bethnal Green Centre, in East London, campaigning to preserve the country s oldest adult education centre in its entirety.
I AM a member of the newly formed 'Association of Dirty Classes' at the Bethnal Green Centre, in East London, campaigning to preserve the country's oldest adult education centre in its entirety.
An open meeting was held on March 20 and a petition presented with 300 signatures to Tower Hamlets Cllr Clair Hawkins when she visited, the first opportunity we had for any consultation or public discussion about the future of our centre.
A large crowd of angry students gathered to hear her tell us we are to be moved out while Year-10 and Year-11 school pupils (14 to 16 age-group) are transferred in for two years, while their school nearby is refurbished.
Evening classes here are to remain in 'skeletal' form, but daytime classes were to be rehoused elsewhere in places like the Rich Mix, Oxford House and York Hall centres.
We were assured there had been no concrete decision about the long-term future of Bethnal Green Centre after the two-year programme.
Suspicions raised by students that it was to be sold to build luxury apartments were concretely refuted by Cllr Hawkins.
We suggested the school kids may prefer a more modern environment like the Rich Mix centre rather than a dusty 200-year-old building like ours. We also suggested it was completely irrational to try and re-house the equipment and dirty facilities we use here that have been built up over decades.
Priority is being given to statutory education in this situation.
But as someone pointed out at that meeting, the people who attend the centre are the parents of the school kids, who have equal rights to access skills, knowledge, culture, community, friendship, creativeness, tools, equipment and a sense of development as life long learners.
We don't want to be separated. We want to continue learning together in one creative environment like ours.
All these factors lead us to think there are greater plans at work.
Such suspicions have been confirmed by receiving a letter from the head of Tower Hamlets children's services, Kevan Collins, clearly stating our centre will most likely be sold to pay for new Ideas stores, which don't have facilities for 'dirty' classes.
I cannot begin to explain in full the tragedy it would be to lose Bethnal Green Centre.
So I have asked Collins to come to the centre and speak to the students, the Association of Dirty Classes and the 'gagged' staff, to understand what it would mean to lose the oldest adult education centre in the country.