Northumberland College slammed after ‘one-off’ outdoor education course scrapped ahead of new term

A lecturer who was recently fired by Northumberland College has criticized the institution for withdrawing the ‘one-off’ course he had attended for 12 years.

Chris Scott was the course manager for the Outdoor Adventure Academy, based at Kirkley Hall near Ponteland. According to promotional material posted by the college last August, the outdoor education course could lead to careers such as rock climbing instructor, mountaineering instructor or kayak and canoe coach.

However, Education Partnership North East, which took over Northumberland College in 2019, believes the course is no longer financially viable due to declining student numbers. She decided to withdraw the course and fire Mr. Scott.

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The lecturer believes that the course has been abandoned by the college in recent years. He pointed to the fact that before the merger the course had five full-time staff, which has since fallen to just two.

Mr Scott said: “After thirty years of providing, they’ve just decided it’s not economical. They see education as a business.

“I was there for 12 years – I started in 2008 as a student and was taken part-time when I left. I loved it for 12 years, it was fantastic work.

“Since the merger we have tried to maintain a full schedule. Going from a team of five to a team of two has been hard work.

“It just seems like they don’t want those specialized courses.”

It is understood that only four students had applied to join the provision, down from 21 in 2018/19 – meaning the college had decided it was no longer viable. Mr Scott admitted the numbers had gone down, but blamed the college for the drop.

He continued: “I feel like they made me lose my job. They did everything they could to make life difficult.

“The outdoor program was almost unique in all of Northumberland. We had a really good program. Northumberland is a great county for outdoor activities.”

Although the college has not explicitly confirmed that the course will no longer be offered, the college’s website page no longer functions.

When asked if the course should no longer be offered and if he had accepted that it had been deliberately dropped, a spokeswoman for Northumberland College said: “Northumberland College has an annual program planning process which is solid and rigorous.

“We thoroughly review all the courses we offer and take into account factors such as the number of applications received, historical student progression, local demand and regional strategic priorities. This ensures that the courses we offer meet the better to the needs of our local communities, employers and stakeholders.

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