TWO of the biggest schools in the area are to merge to create a super college – just months after denying the plans to The News.
Havant Sixth Form College and South Downs College in Waterlooville have announced they have asked permission from the government to merge.
South Downs has around 6,000 full and part-time students while Havant has 1,100.
In a statement, the colleges said each campus will continue to deliver A-levels for the foreseeable future and no courses will be changed mid-term.
But staff have major concerns about jobs if a decision is taken to close one of the sites.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one staff member said: ‘This will result in redundancies and people have real fears about that.
‘But if they keep both sites, with South Downs as vocational and Havant for an A-level centre of excellence, then I don’t think people would have too much of an issue with it.
‘And I think if that was the case they would end up cutting down on managers, rather than teaching staff.
‘It all comes down to money – pure economics and nothing else.
‘If they close one of the sites it would be disastrous.’
Rumours of a merger first emerged in September last year.
Havant principal John McDougall and South Downs principal Mike Gaston said after of a review of post-16 education by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and Department for Education that they may share some back office functions. But they denied a merger.
When challenged on the denial yesterday, a spokesperson for the colleges said talks on a full merger had only begun very recently.
In a joint statement issued yesterday, the principals said their aim was to:
n Establish an A-level centre of excellence that will offer the most extensive choice of courses in the south.
n Become the region’s leading provider of professional and technical courses.
n Offer GCSEs through to higher education.
n Optimise the colleges’ assets, including world-class teaching professionals.
n Expand apprenticeships and improve access to future employees for businesses.
n Ensure a sustainable world-class further education provision.
The statement added: ‘The merger would allow the creation of an outstanding provider, building on the two existing brands of high quality to meet our local and regional needs.
‘A significant aspect of the proposed merger being explored between the governing bodies is to introduce a single management team from 2016 before a possible full merger from 2017.’
Havant was recently given a glowing report by Ofsted, with one of the only criticisms being about apprenticeships.
South Downs excels at vocational studies, which make up almost half of the courses on offer.