Failed Wigan college closes its doors for the last time
A Wigan education facility which was intended to give borough teenagers a more work-related experience of schooling has shut.
A notice posted outside Wigan UTC announced the Parson’s Walk establishment has closed its doors.
The facility, run by the Northern Schools Trust, was earmarked for closure earlier this year as pupil numbers had remained stubbornly low, rendering it financially unviable.
Parents had hoped the university technical college might be able to stay open another year so pupils could finish their courses.
Although that did not happen the Department for Education (DfE) has said arrangements have been put in place for all pupils to continue their education.
The closure has been greeted with strong criticism from Wigan MP Lisa Nandy, who questioned the need for the UTC and then slammed ministers for poor communication over the UTC’s plight.
She said: “Students and their families have been badly let down by this UTC which was beset by problems from the beginning. There were serious concerns about the educational offer and the UTC’s ability to attract students.
“Instead of setting up a new institution to compete with our existing schools and colleges the government should have provided them with adequate funding.
“While the DfE had several months notice that the UTC intended to close, students were given just weeks causing serious disruption to their education.
“The entire episode has been handled disgracefully and at serious cost to our young people who deserve better.”
A DfE spokesperson said: “The department took the decision to close Wigan UTC at the end of this academic year due to the fact that student numbers and demand for places within the UTC remained low.
“We have worked closely with Northern Schools Trust, the UTC and local partners to secure alternative places for all pupils, to minimise disruption and ensure they are able to complete their studies.”
Around 120 pupils were studying at the UTC instead of the 500 or so intended to be full capacity.
Wigan Council said it is supporting the students but also looking forward to what can be done with the building, which has unusual features such as a vertical farm.
A spokesperson said: “We regret the negative impact of the DfE decision on local young people and families and continue to do everything within our powers to minimise the impact.
“The council will push for a positive local future for the building aimed at supporting education and skills development for our residents.”
The DfE said it hopes the building will be put to a new education-related use.