Pensioners log in to centre fight

PUBLISHED: 12:10 15 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:20 06 May 2010

Carol Rock wants the centre to stay open

Carol Rock wants the centre to stay open

A CAMPAIGN to save an education centre is gathering momentum thanks to pensioner power. Members of the Biggleswade and District Pensioners Association have taken up the fight to try to keep the Learning Shop, in Saffron Road, Biggleswade, open. On Saturd

A CAMPAIGN to save an education centre is gathering momentum thanks to pensioner power.

Members of the Biggleswade and District Pensioners' Association have taken up the fight to try to keep the Learning Shop, in Saffron Road, Biggleswade, open.

On Saturday they set up a stall on Biggleswade market and collected 810 signatures on a petition.

They will be at the market again this Saturday, outside the Iceland store from 10am.

The group plans to hand the petition to Bedfordshire County Council and MP Alistair Burt, who they want to help them in their fight.

Bedford College, which runs the centre, says it is no longer viable to keep it open because of falling numbers and changes to government funding priorities.

But many residents say the centre is a vital facility which must not be shut.

Carol Rock, of The Paddocks, Potton, has used the Learning Shop has attended the learning centre at least once a week for the past year.

She has already passed computer courses in word processing and spreadsheets.

Ms Rock, 40, said: "There's loads more I want to do but I won't be able to because I can't travel to Bedford.

"The hours are just so good at Biggleswade. A drive to Bedford would be an extra hour.

"It's local for all the small villages around Biggleswade and there's quite a lot of elderly people that go there and they don't want to travel far either.

"It's just that it is accessible for all age groups and you can learn at your own pace. You can go in when you want to."

Ian Pryce, principal and chief executive of Bedford College admitted the centre had been "a big success" and said opting to shut it had been "a difficult decision".

But he added: "Adult education in colleges is now a lower government funding priority and we have been asked to reduce our student numbers from 16,000 to 14,000 for next year.

"Given this reduction in funding and the fact that enrolments are now running at only 200 per year, the centre is no longer financially viable, and we have therefore chosen not to renew our lease.

"This is not a reflection on our staff who have provided an outstanding service.

"The fact that so many students want us to remain open shows how much they value the service provided.

"I sympathise with their concerns. We will continue to develop our other centre in Biggleswade, and seek to ensure current students can complete their programme.

"As a large employer of over 600 staff we are doing all we can to find alternative work for the Biggleswade trainers.

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