College questioned at Overview and Scrutiny

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Deputy Principal Brian Page gave councillors a good report on Epping Forest College at the meeting of Epping Forest District Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 20 October. Stuart Markham of Fusion Project Management Limited supplemented Mr Page’s report with the latest news on the College’s development plans.

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Epping Forest College – Presentation 

Mr Page began with an account of some of the new courses available including options as diverse as access to nursing, airline cabin crew training and the London Lions Basketball team. The College runs a football coaching course with Tottenham Hotspur. GCSE packages are based around English, Maths and Science. Performing arts including Rock school are very popular.

Almost 3,000 students are enrolled in daytime and evening class study. The College is also increasing provision for 14 to 16 year olds.

There are 3 vocational A-level pathways

  • Business
  • Social Science
  • Arts

As well as the full range of academic A-level studies including Maths and English.

Property strategy

Stuart Markham briefed councillors on potential development of new onsite facilities and funding options. A sports, health and wellbeing centre is planned with funding through profits from surplus land sales for housing development. Brian Page reminded councillors that the College library is open to the local community and any sports facilities would be similarly available. Despite funding reductions, College finances are healthy compared to other colleges across Essex. Surpluses are being ploughed back into student services.

Questions

In response to questions from Councillor Ken Angold-Stephens, Mr Page confirmed that some of the vocational A-levels provide alternatives not available through the 6th Form Consortium of local secondary schools. The ‘Middle-Site’ identified as the most likely potential area for development could be used for housing or a new primary school. While the College is looking at the potential for grants, capital receipts are the main focus of funding.

Councillor David Wixley wanted to know what the definition of ‘medium-term’ was for provision of new sports facilities. Stuart Markham suggested around 4 years dependent on resolution of funding issues. Councillor Leon Girling asked if the College had documents the public could see regarding the Lucton Playing Fields and Middle-Site.

Brian page replied that they were not publicly available yet. He explained that the College needed to secure funding including the removal of restrictive covenants, clarity over the size of schemes and planning consents. Until then he did not feel a defined scheme could be presented to local residents. Councillor Girling expressed concern that the Lucton Playing Fields were not being maintained and antisocial behaviour was taking place on the Middle Site. He asked for reassurance that adequate maintenance and security was being put in place.

Councillor Mary Sartin wanted to know about job prospects for students leaving Epping Forest College. Brian Page assured Councillor Sartin that his students were able to move into growing job markets.

Councillor Brian Surtees asked about levels of attainment. Brian Page responded that success rates were in the high 80s per cent although assessment rules have recently changes and the rate is likely to have come down. Responding to Councillor Sam Kane, Brian Page said that he did not yet have figures for conversion rates from apprenticeship schemes to employment although the college rated highly in national league tables.

Overview and Scrutiny Committee Chairman Councillor Richard Morgan thanked Brian Page and Stuart Markham for a very useful presentation.

Youth engagement review

Overview and Scrutiny backed continued district council support for the Epping Forest Youth Council including current annual financing of £12,000 and structured consultation with young people through the district’s youth councillors.

Councillors went on to support proposals to devolve the budget and responsibilities for youth provision from Essex County Council to Epping Forest District Council and further bids for funding of £8,000 towards a Youth Council Enabling Fund and £25,000 for targeted work by Community Services and Safety.

Other items

Overview and Scrutiny also received the latest reports on Constitutional Review, the Corporate Plan, councillor training, the committee’s own forward work programme and the Cabinet’s Forward Plan.