A sixth-form college for Haywards Heath could be re-established and open as soon as September 2020, according to the county council.
The former Central Sussex College campus in Harlands Road closed last July when the college was overwhelmed with £25million of debts.
But after hard lobbying from Mid Sussex’s MP Sir Nicholas Soames and other local politicians ministers agreed in September there is a need for sixth-form provision in the area and will look at bringing the site back into use.
The process to select a provider to take on the vacant college site has begun, with the window for submissions set to run until Tuesday November 13.
Shortlisted providers will then be asked to submit full proposals by mid December.
The steering group overseeing this process is made up of the Further Education Commissioner, the Education and Skills Funding Agency, the local enterprise partnership, Sussex University and is being led by Mid Sussex District Council and West Sussex County Council.
It will make a recommendation to Government as soon as possible following selection.
In a letter to West Sussex headteachers, Kim Curry, the county council’s executive director for children, adults, families, health and education, said: “As you can see from the timeline involved, the selection process is now moving at some pace. WSCC and all the steering group members will continue to work together to achieve the best possible outcomes for learners and the local community.”
The selection criteria agreed means potential providers will need to be within a 20-mile radius of Haywards Heath, have a track-record of delivering high quality 16-18 education and be looking to expand existing provision on to the college site.
Members of the Central and South Mid Sussex County Local Committee were given an update on Tuesday night (October 30).
Richard Burrett, cabinet member for education and skills, said the earliest the college site could reopen would be September 2020.
He explained that the county council was only a ‘bit player’ but would continue to work hard as part of the steering group to get the college site back into use.
Stephen Hillier (Con, Haywards Heath East) said it was ‘awesome news’ to have the Government accept the need to reopen the college.
Although it was important to have outstanding academic education he also made a plea for a ‘really solid vocational offer’.