Over 50 sixth form students at Riverside College, in Runcorn, Cheshire, last week reacted against the removal of IT facilities from the college. Ronnie Williams reports
Over 50 sixth form students at Riverside College, in Runcorn, Cheshire, last week reacted against the removal of IT facilities from the college and the atmosphere of secrecy in which the ill-disguised asset-strip was carried out.
With just weeks to go before AS and A-level examinations, computers from the former Runcorn sixth form building were to be removed - apparently to be installed next door in the former Halton College building. The two colleges were forced into an amalgamation by the local Labour-run authority last summer against the wishes of staff, students, parents and the local community in general. This comes against a background of enforced school closures and amalgamations in Halton (Runcorn and Widnes) over the last six years and, much like those amalgamations, the new Riverside College has been less than successful.
Students circulated a petition against the removal of the IT equipment on Thursday March 1, when the news first broke, without any previous communication or consultation with either students or staff. The following morning - when the computers were due to be taken away - a spontaneous protest took place by a small number of students in the suite from which the equipment was being removed.
The protest quickly escalated, with more and more students joining, and a barricade was constructed out of chairs. Senior members of staff were called to defuse the situation and attempted to answer questions about the controversial decision - openly admitting that there had been a breakdown in communication - but did not satisfactorily answer queries.
Instead, students agreed to continue discussions at a later date between senior members of staff and individual tutor groups.