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News - 8 January 2005

City College to take on new training centre

The CoMart building in East Brighton could reopen in September 2005 for use as a further education centre and training centre for full and part-time students run by City College.

The city's School Organisation Committee took the decision last year to close CoMart (College of Media Arts) as a secondary school at the end of August 2005 because of falling pupil numbers.

Council officers have been working closely with senior managers at City College Brighton & Hove for the past five months to appraise a number of options that could reap huge benefits for the city and that tie in closely with the college's expansion plans.

In addition to offering media and performing arts there is an opportunity to develop a dedicated construction skills and craft training centre to meet the city's huge demand for a trained workforce that will support the £2.2billion worth of construction that is expected to take place in the city over the next 10 years.

Councillor Simon Burgess, deputy chair of the council's Policy & Resources committee, is on the council's Comart site project board.

Councillor Burgess says: "There is an incredible amount of complex work being done behind the scenes to make this project happen because it could bring huge benefits to the whole of Brighton & Hove. It promises to support the future regeneration of East Brighton.

"Further education on the site has always been the council's preferred option and we are committing a great deal of resource and effort into working co-operatively with City College to make this project succeed."

Martin Perry, chairman of the City College board of governors says, "Expanding City College could start to address the concerns that local employers have about the skill shortages in this city. We are working hard with the council to try to forge a way forward on the Comart site.

"We have now reached the stage where we need to consult our staff, students and the local community to make sure that we have maximum support for this project. We have discussed the project with the Sussex Learning and Skills Council. They fully support the work of City College and are keen to develop the adult skills agenda in East Brighton."

Ann Smith, principal at City College, says: "It is expected that the expansion of City College to East Brighton would have a significant long-term impact on the city. City-wide more people would have the opportunity to learn and increase their knowledge and skills, but it would be an added bonus for local people who would find it easier to access learning closer to home."

Mark Whitby, executive principal of Comart, says, "Retaining this site to use for further education in the city is the best way forward and I am delighted that this is what city councillors want. This is a wonderful area of the city in which to work and I can highly recommend it to further education teaching staff."

East Brighton has historically ranked poorly in the government's league tables for educational and skills levels. It is hoped that the Comart project will help raise these levels to the highest standards experienced across the City.

Both the council and City College want the local community to become actively involved in the consultation on the site's future and there will be wider consultation for everyone in the city.

It will be imperative that any detailed proposal for the Comart site stacks up financially and does not add further resource demands for the City Council. Once further detailed work has been completed, formal decisions on the future of the site will be made by the City Council's cross-party Policy & Resources Committee.


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