Community impact in Yarmouth is key to prove college’s worth

Great Yarmouth College principal Stuart Rimmer with students

Great Yarmouth College principal Stuart Rimmer with students - Credit: Archant

Anticipated cuts to the further education sector were not as bad as expected following the spending review last week. However Stuart Rimmer, principal and CEO of Great Yarmouth College is cautious, pointing out 'the devil will be in the detail', as changes come into play.

Great Yarmouth College students, from left to right, Liliana Gomes, 24, Ana Coutinho, 26, Carla Vale

Great Yarmouth College students, from left to right, Liliana Gomes, 24, Ana Coutinho, 26, Carla Valente, 34, Jemma Colledge, 27, and Sash Holt, 42. - Credit: Archant

The further education sector gave a sigh of relief on November 25, when Chancellor George Osborne announced that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Bis) would see a 17pc reduction in budget, having previously been told to expect to see cuts of between 25pc and 40pc.

'We welcome the Chancellor's recognition to support 19 to 23-year-olds with loans for advanced study in technical and professional training,' Mr Rimmer said. 'However there is still a need to increase support for students who are studying at lower levels. There is a worrying statement to obtain £360m of efficiency savings from the Adult Skills budget by 2019/20.

'We shall wait to see how policy implementation rolls out over the coming months.'

Mr Rimmer's concern comes as the college has been working hard to show the positive impact it has on the local community.

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'I consider us as a 'civil college',' he said. 'By that I mean we're integral to the civic leadership of this town. It's easy to prove our worth by speaking about how we work with employers, but there are other implications within society too, it's not just about helping people get traction in employment.'

One student, Jemma Colledge, has benefited from the neighbourly influence of the college.

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'Because I had a child, I wanted to do better for myself,' said Jemma, 27, who is studying an access to humanities and social sciences course. She wants to go on to university to study psychology and criminology, eventually leading to working within the prison service. But the college hasn't only helped her academically.

'My two-year-old daughter goes to the nursery here, I know she's safe, it gives me peace of mind when studying,' she said. 'If the funding wasn't available, or I didn't have the support here, I'd probably just be a stay-at-home mum. This way, I'll be able to be a role model to my daughter, give her ambition - and one day help her with her homework!'

Sash Holy, another adult learner studying an access to media course, agreed. 'When I first started studying my son was younger, he's 14 now, but I needed something part time which I could integrate childcare into, and which was local,' said Sash, 42.

Some students said studying at the college helped with their integration into town. Liliana Gomes, 24, Carla Valente, 34, and Ana Coutinho, 26, are all studying an English for speakers of another language course. The women, from Portugal, all said that although they hoped improving their English would help with employment, there were other gains to be made.

'I want to be able to be able to speak to my children's teachers and understand their education,' said Carla, who has nine-year-old daughter and a son, 16.

All of these outcomes contribute to the college's 'interest in social cohesion,' said Mr Rimmer. But he fears for the future of these important programmes should funding be cut further. Already this year the college will need to find £100,000 to support its 'unfunded adult learners'.

'It's always the policy which has the impact,' said Mr Rimmer. 'So we'll wait and see, but my staff team - who I am desperately proud of and who work so hard - deal in the concept of changing lives, that's our commitment.'

Next week, the Great Yarmouth Mercury will look further into the impact that Great Yarmouth College has on businesses and the local economy.

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