BCA and Windsor Forest colleges seek to merge

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

adrianw@baylismedia.co.uk
BURCHETTS GREEN 132758-1

Berkshire College of Agriculture sign, Hall Place, Burchetts Green Road, Burchett's Green, Maidenhead.

Berkshire College of Agriculture (BCA) is looking to merge with The Windsor Forest Colleges Group (TWFCG) with the aim of increasing capacity and expanding options for students.

The merger will bring together the Sixth Form offer at Strode’s and Windsor Colleges, the technical and vocational education at Langley College, and the specialist land-based and vocational programmes at BCA.

TWFCG and BCA have been looking into the potential merger over the past few months and are now entering a period of consultation.

The hope is that students of all the colleges under the merger will be able to take advantage of the facilities and resources across the campuses.

Chair of governors for TWCFG, Angela Wellings said: “We already collaborate on many projects and this merger would bring an enormous amount of expertise together under one progressive college group.”

BCA will retain its name, brand and ‘all the features that make BCA unique’, said Pippa Goodwin, chair of the BCA board of governors.

Speaking to the Advertiser, BCA’s interim principal, Anne Entwistle, said the move is ‘all about education’ and entirely separate from its recent bid for planning permission to build homes nearby, to financially support the Grade-I listed Hall Place building.

“We’re now in a very strong financial position and it’s likely we wouldn’t have been as attractive (to TWFCG) without that planning permission,” said Anne.

For BCA, the merger is needed so it can grow beyond its current capacity. During the last round of applications, the college had to put prospective students on a waiting list for the first time.

It recently applied for planning permission to add two more temporary teaching blocks to cope with the rise in student numbers.

“We’re all really excited because as we see this as something really special,” said Anne. “Both colleges are rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted and together we could be even better than ‘good’.”

One possible outcome of merging will be for BCA students to be able to progress to higher level courses at Windsor Forest colleges.

“The two have a similar catchment area, so in merging, there will be no real competition between the two – just more young people in the area getting a real chance,” said Anne.

The schools are expected to retain separate principals, though the board of governors may combine.

Group principal and CEO Gillian May joined TWFCG in April, after 10 years leading BCA.

“I can see enormous potential in the proposed new group,” she said. “The sharing of knowledge and expertise will enhance our curriculum and our ability to respond to the fast-changing demands of the education and skills agenda in the region.”

The target date for the merge is July 2022 and a public consultation will be launched in the New Year.

For more information, visit the college websites at windsor-forest.ac.uk and bca.ac.uk

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