Is Clarance House under threat?

PUBLISHED: 14:15 01 March 2007 | UPDATED: 21:35 29 May 2010

ADULT education classes are under threat in the region according to councillors following a sharp decline in enrolments. Last year saw a 20 per cent drop in the number of people going to daytime and evening classes across Uttlesford. Thaxted s district Cl

ADULT education classes are under threat in the region according to councillors following a sharp decline in enrolments.

Last year saw a 20 per cent drop in the number of people going to daytime and evening classes across Uttlesford.

Thaxted's district Cllrs Martin Foley and Antoinette Wattebot believe Clarance House, which is used for adult education classes in Thaxted, could close if student numbers continue to fall.

"If this rate of decline continues there will be no daytime and evening classes left at Clarance House in two years' time - it's the thin end of the wedge," said Cllr Foley.

Cllr Wattebot added: "Essex Tories have been looking for an excuse to sell off Clarance House for years.

"It's time to stop the rot as 20 per cent is a lot of students to lose in only one year."

Essex County Council's cabinet is expected to announce changes to the way the Adult and Community Education Service is run in Uttlesford at a meeting on March 7.

But in the meantime, district councillors fear that if nothing is done to better promote adult education, the service will be under threat, with the elderly being worst affected.

Stansted Cllr Geoffrey Sell said:

"We used to have a well promoted adult education service at the

Peter Kirk Centre in Stansted but they haven't sold the courses at all well recently. It feels like death by a thousand cuts."

Saffron Walden representative Cllr Helen Baker believes the courses are essential for the district's elderly population.

"These classes are essential to the quality of life and social well-being of so many people," she said.

"Cuts in education for elderly people can lead to increased costs in health and social services."

Cllr Mike Hibbs, who also represents Saffron Walden, said premises used for adult education courses at Shire Hill, Saffron Walden, would be wasted if classes were not better promoted.

"Without local funding to provide classes for elderly people, the service will wither," he said.

But Thaxted's Conservative county Cllr Simon Walsh said: "The adult education college in Ongar is awash with promotional material including details about Thaxted, so the publications do exist.

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