‘Madhouse’ attack on borough’s education system

Burnley's UTC
Burnley's UTC

A leading county councillor has slammed Burnley’s education system as “a madhouse” and said millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money had been wasted in recent years.

County Coun. Marcus Johnstone, who also sits on Burnley Council and is a former college lecturer, hit out as the landscape of Burnley’s education system is changing yet again – with a new secondary school being built and the news the two-year-old University Technical College is closing.

Marcus Johnstone

Marcus Johnstone

The Labour politician said: “There have been massive changes in Burnley’s education system over the last decade to the point where it is now a madhouse. Lunatics have messed it up.

“The borough, but more importantly our children, are suffering from years of disjointed thinking. That is the real tragedy.”

Just 10 years after the £250m. Building Schools for the Future programme saw five new secondary schools built in the borough, yet another new secondary institution is currently being built in the form of the “free” Burnley High School.

At the same time, nearby Hameldon Community College, has just 300 students in its £22m. building on Coal Clough Lane, which opened in September, 2010.

We have to think of our children’s futures. They are the ones who have been caught in the middle of all this in the last decade, and have been treated like guinea pigs

County Coun. Johnstone

There was also shock recently when UTC Lancashire, which opened to great fanfare in 2014 at a cost of £10m., announced it was to close this summer after failing to attract enough pupils.

County Coun. Johnstone added: “What happened with the UTC is scandalous. This college was not thought through properly. It was created by an unelected body, using public money, who decided to up sticks and leave halfway through a lot of our children’s education.

“If the local authority had done this to one of our mainstream schools there would have been uproar.

“We also now have a situation where we have a free school being built, Burnley High School, which currently has just two year groups. This, too, is run by a private body (the Chapel House Schools Trust) which does not have the best of records.

“Around half a mile away from where the new school is being built we have Hameldon Community College, which is very undersubscribed.

“Burnley’s population is at best static, and at worst shrinking, we are exporting our children to schools outside the borough and yet millions of pounds has been spent on new schools and colleges which are not being properly used.”

Burnley’s Further Education system is also facing change, with the news last week that Burnley College is to merge with Accrington and Rossendale College.

County Coun. Johnstone added: “I am not surprised at the proposed college merger.

“The Further Education sector is struggling because the Government has changed the funding system for colleges.

“Vocational training courses were once the lifeblood of colleges, but the Government now wants employers to provide these.

“At the end of the day, we have to think of our children’s futures. They are the ones who have been caught in the middle of all this in the last decade, and have been treated like guinea pigs. We have to have more joined-up thinking regards education in the future and stop wasting public money.”