Government funding regarded as a ‘game changer’ for college
Kym O’Mara, the newly appointed head of campus for Cornwall College St Austell, says this is an incredibly exciting time for the college and our future students
14th April 2021
By Natasha Swift
Ambitious plans to revamp Cornwall College’s St Austell campus have taken a giant leap forward after it was named as one of just 16 colleges in England to receive a share of £1.5 billion government cash.
An undisclosed sum of money will pave the way for the college to redevelop the site on Tregonissey Road, which could include the demolition of John Keay House.
The project will “transform” post-16 education in St Austell and be a “shot in the arm” for the town, according to the chief executive and principal of The Cornwall College Group, John Evans.
The cash comes from the next phase of the government’s further education capital transformation fund.
The fund was first launched in September 2020 by the Prime Minister to rebuild and transform college estates and create modern, fit-for-purpose spaces that meet the needs of students and the communities they serve.
Mr Evans said the announcement was a “momentous” occasion for St Austell and the college group, and paves the way for ambitious plans he has for the campus.
“We want to create a real centre of educational excellence at our St Austell site,” he said. “We have been heavily investing in our student experiences and teaching, and a recent Ofsted visit recognised the quality of our recent work in this area.
“However, one thing I have been determined to achieve since taking on this role in 2019 is the upgrading of our facilities – and the campus at John Keay House has been a top priority of mine.
“We hope that being earmarked in this latest round of capital transformation funding is an important next step to achieving this.”
Last year Mr Evans revealed his £30m masterplan to revamp the campus to the Voice.
Speaking at the time he said the new building would be centred around the existing theatre at the site and create “something special” for not only students, but the whole community.
Following the announcement last week, Mr Evans told the Voice: “The DfE have said they will work with us to come to an agreed project that they would then support. It is going to be significant money.
“We went ahead and started to do the concept, designs and planning long before this came about. I believe that’s what swung it for us. We got in as being one of the chosen 16 because we were already so far down the line.
“When they did the conditions survey of John Keay House it was the 16th worst by a long way. It needs significant work to either refurbish or renew.
“The fact we weren’t starting from scratch, we had already done an awful lot of the work in terms of planning, meant that we were lucky enough to be chosen in the 16.
“To be chosen in the 16 is no mean feat. It’s a massive plus for St Austell and Cornwall. I keep using the term game-changer. This will transform post-16 education in St Austell and the local district.
“Our whole remit was for the community, young and old. We are working very closely with St Austell Football Club and putting a new pitch there as well.
“There is so much excitement for what can happen at St Austell. It deserves that shot in the arm. This is a game-changer, it is huge. There are 220 colleges and many campuses and they have singled out St Austell.
“This is a one off. I have been in Further Education since 1984 and this is the first time you get something where the DfE says we are coming to help and support you. We are one of the chosen ones.”
Kym O’Mara, the newly appointed head of campus for Cornwall College St Austell said: “This is an incredibly exciting time for the college and our future students. This also signifies a huge leap forward for our college, which is currently going through a significant programme of change.
“Ever since our new leadership team was appointed in 2019, we have seen continual improvement and investment, and today’s news will mean that we only add to this.
“Of course, as a community college, it is not just our young people that this investment will benefit.
“We have an enormous range on offer for adults too, both in professional qualifications, including apprenticeships and leisure courses and many of our local businesses and organisations are able to take advantage of our onsite facilities as well.”
Mr Evans thanked MP for St Austell, Steve Double, adding: “There is no doubt that him organising an audience with Gavin Williamson will have had an impact. We both have the same vision for St Austell.”
Mr Double said: “This announcement is really excellent news for St Austell. John and I have the same ambitions for the town and surrounding areas and have been united in our desire to see a new campus building to replace the John Keay House site for a number of years.
“I am hopeful that with this funding boost, the exceptional range of courses and apprenticeships available, and the other investments being made, even more school-leavers will decide to stay in St Austell to continue their studies and that quality further education provision will be secured for future generations of young people in the town.”