Opening date set for Haywards Heath sixth form college

Shelagh Legrave and Paul Riley
Shelagh Legrave and Paul Riley

Haywards Heath College will open its doors again in September 2020.

It has been four years since the college, in Harlands Road, closed after being swamped by debts of £25m, costing more than a dozen jobs.

It has now become part of the Chichester College Group, which also runs Crawley, Worthing and Brinsbury Colleges.

There was a huge outcry when the college closed, especially because the state-of-the-art building only opened in 2013.

In Parliament, Mid Sussex MP Sir Nicholas Soames called the closure  a ‘self-inflicted wound by an earlier and very reckless management’.

Today, he said he was ‘thrilled’.

The success was very much a team effort, with the government, the college group, Mid Sussex District Council, West Sussex County Council and the LEP working together to get things done.

Sir Nicholas heaped praise on Kathryn Hall, chief executive of the district council, saying she was owed an ‘enormous debt of gratitude’ for her efforts.

While his calls for an inquiry into the entire fiasco were not taken on, Sir Nicholas said he was pleased that the government wrote off £18m of the debt and arranged for the financing of the new college.

He added: “If they didn’t do that, we wouldn’t have been able to start negotiations.”

The college will provide post-16 education, offering A Levels, BTECs and apprenticeships.

It will also have a new principal.

Paul Riley will take charge of the Haywards Heath campus as well as continuing as head of Worthing College.

Excited by the challenge, Mr Riley said: “We are committed to creating a local college which will give young people access to the highest quality teaching and support as they continue their education.”

He added: “The existing site facilities are fantastic and we look forward to sharing them with the local community and welcoming students to their new college next year.”

The news was shared by district council leader Jonathan Ash-Edwards at a meeting of the full council, and was heartily welcomed by councillors from all parties.

He said: “The district council has worked hard with stakeholders, and with the support of Sir Nicholas Soames MP, to persuade the government that opening new college provision in Haywards Heath is essential to meet the needs of the area, and we will continue to actively support Chichester College Group as they work towards the college’s opening.”

Shelagh Legrave OBE, chief executive of the college group, said: “We are very much looking forward to opening the new college in 2020.

“Paul and I have already started visiting local schools and meeting with Year 10 students to discuss the high quality educational opportunities that will be available to them at the college.”

A spokesman for the college said dates for a number of open days would be announced soon.

Karen Dunn , Local Democracy Reporting Service