Wednesday, 02 December 2020
A £3MILLION science, technology, engineering and mathematics centre is set to be created at The Henley College.
The state-of-the-art facility would intially be part of the existing Deanfield campus but the college would like a new, purpose-built centre later and has not ruled out selling land to fund the development.
The STEM centre is part of a three-year plan to improve the facilities in Deanfield Avenue and at the Rotherfield campus nearby.
The college says it is committed to both sites.
It has employed Peter Marsh Consulting, of Winchester, which works with further education colleges to deliver projects, to carry out a review of its assets and will appoint a design team before carrying out public consultation on its plans in the spring.
Principal Satwant Deol, who recently completed her first year in post, said the STEM centre would cost between £2million and £3million. She said: “We’re looking at all options. Our first and preferred option would be to fund it with existing resources or partner with people.
“We haven’t ruled out looking at maximising our opportunities and if there’s potential land that is not fully utilised that will come under the spotlight but no decisions have been made.”
Mrs Deol said any development would need to benefit the community and the college would not sell land to a care home developer.
It previously sold a small piece of land off Deanfield Avenue which was bought by B&M Care, together with the larger former youth centre site next door, for the development of a care home.
Mrs Deol said: “We’re quite clear we don’t want to go down the care home route. Our mission is to be at the heart of our community and that’s what we’ll do.”
The STEM centre plan is in response to the Government’s industrial strategy and requests by universities and employers for future employees with specific skills.
It could teach technological skills such as robotics and would be equipped with computers, 3D printers and virtual reality technology.
Mrs Deol said: “The UK plc needs greater skills in science, technology and maths. The priorities are major sciences, digital skills, creativity and engineering. Our students in engineering this year have more than doubled and for the first time we have got six women.
“We want to make sure our young people are developing skills for the future. We want to be an outstanding college at the heart of our community and to be leaders in learning.
“We want to provide businesses and universities with the skills that are required.”
She said the college’s plans were “exciting” and would be shared with the people of Henley as part of delivering them.
Mrs Deol said: “We’re looking at a designated space within the college that we’d develop, particularly with our Local Enterprise Partnerships and local businesses, that would move us towards the right kind of learning for our students.
“By the end of three years we would like to have a STEM centre fully operational on that site. We want to start developing it sooner rather than later. I spent my first six months here on the road talking to schools, universities and employers.
“The community is very important because we intend the facility to be for the community. We’re growing our adult education and part-time offer and what we’re looking at is integrating ourselves much better.
“The next three years will be pivotal for the college. We are looking at everything we do in order to make sure we continue to provide a stimulating learning environment for all our students.
“We will be building on our excellent results and reputation to create a truly 21st century college.”
Peter le Conte, who chairs the college’s board of governors, said: “We are proud of the college’s long history and we value the quality of the setting of our two key town centre sites.
“We are at the start of a journey to explore how we can make the very best of the physical assets that we own and are committed to working with the local community in the development of new proposals.
“We appreciate that any news of potential development can be worrying. We will be engaging with, and listening to, our neighbours and friends in the development of our plans, so they can contribute to the thriving future of the town we are all proud to call our home.”
In 1998 the college’s Southfield site was demolished and the land sold to fund improvements.
It became Goodall Close, a residential street.
18 December 2017
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