Somerset Skills and Learning (SS&L) based in Corams Lane, Wellington, has confirmed that five of its centres are to close – in Burnham, Ilminster, Chard and Minehead before Christmas and in Taunton early in the New Year.
In October funding for SS&L was reduced from £3.4 million in 2016 -17 to just £111,000 for 2017 -18 although an extra ‘emergency’ fund of £2.4 million was subsequently provided by the Government when all courses were put on hold.
SS&L provides adult education courses for 10,000 students and jobs for 200 staff across West Somerset. Since the announcement of the cuts to its budget it has undergone a company restructuring with significant redundancies in the organisation.
West Somerset Labour Party chairman Maureen Smith said this was a terrible blow for adult education in Somerset. “West Somerset is likely to suffer very badly,” she said.
“These drastic cuts are a consequence of the decision by the county council to out-source this important service. Education is not just about preparing people for work. With an ageing population, it is vital for social inclusion and well-being. Labour will continue to campaign for education for all.”
Susie Simon-Norris, chief executive for SS&L, said, “We are so sad to be closing these centres which have served their local communities with adult education for many years.
“Following the funding cuts, which stripped virtually all of Somerset’s community learning funds, we were left with little choice but to reduce overheads by closing centres as well as losing loyal and long-serving staff members.”
The education provider has teamed up with local libraries and external venues to ensure adult education in maths, English, computers, business, childcare, health & social care and support teaching will continue in the affected areas.
“We are striving to ensure these communities continue to receive opportunities for adult education, apprenticeships and training so we’re partnering with local venues to continue to deliver courses. However, all community leisure and learning courses have been halted at this point,” said Simon-Norris.
“We’re continuing to put pressure to have funds reinstated and we will be starting 2018 with a streamlined organisation and more determination to ensure Somerset’s local communities get access to the skills and qualifications they need,” she added.