Farewell to Coulsdon CALAT

By - Tuesday 22nd March, 2016

Cuts and more cuts. There seems no end to them, says Loren Dixon, and CALAT is yet another victim

CALAT Centre at Coulsdon

Main entrance at CALAT’s Coulsdon Centre.
Photo author’s own.

CALAT (Croydon Adult Learning and Training) was, and according to the council’s website still remains, a provider of ‘vibrant, high-quality adult learning experiences’ for local people, offering more than a thousand courses to 20,000 students and trainees each year. No longer, it seems.

I can still recollect CALAT at Norwood, the largest of all the CALAT centres. My brother enjoyed his cooking classes there and when I had time, I attended a pilates class. It was eventually closed (transformed into a school) and what was left were sent to Coulsdon.

Poor Coulsdon Centre. It was a little jewel among the other CALAT centres and was running beyond capacity with an influx of students following the closure in the north of the borough. There was never enough space. I hoped Coulsdon would expand to meet increased demand, but instead it too faces impending closure.

Where were the contingencies?

Cuts and more cuts. There appears to be no end to these cuts. We tighten our belts again and again but now have ran out of notches. According to a statement by Coulsdon CALAT, the Skills Fund Agency (which funds CALAT) has a shortfall of £600,000.00. I am no accountant and over half a million is a lot of money, but properties are going for far more in South East London. Just ask Croydon’s new branch of Foxton’s estate agents.

Spending by Croydon Council is a lot more: look at the cost of Bernard Weatherill House, to give just one example. Why was CALAT reliant on one agent for funding? Why not find funding from multiple sources and avoid having all our eggs in one basket? Where were the contingencies?

If this is a joke, I’m still waiting for the punchline

Last year I attended both meetings held to discuss the closure of CALAT. The morning meeting in particular was full of upset students, especially those with learning disabilities. For them, more changes meant more disruption to their routine. One or two pointed out they were not happy going to particular centres as they were nervous about crime in those areas. others complained about the distance travelling and public transport making it difficult to be punctual.

The parents and carers in the evening meeting were more subdued but still concerned. A petition was set up with many views and comments about the closure, (Croydon Council: Save Coulsdon CALAT Centre). I agree with Niamh Collins’ comment in the petition that: “These cuts are a joke”. And yet I am still waiting for Croydon Council’s punchline.

Loren Dixon

Loren Dixon

Loren is a full time carer for an adult sibling who is autistic and is a member of a Autism Family/Parent Support Group in Croydon. She also volunteers for the South London Botanical Institute when she has time and has worked in the cultural & heritage sector. After a long spell of not painting and drawing she has returned to it by finding enjoyment in a new medium to her, botanical illustration.

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  • Anne Giles

    I spent years and years teaching Spanish in adult education and there were cuts a long time ago. My three nights a week went down to two, then one, then eventually all those of us who were over 65 were made to leave, before the Age Discrimination Act came into force. Some teachers were made redundant and centres closed.Funding was hard, as it was felt by the powers that be that classes which did not produce exams were unimportant, so we had to produce tests for the students. Fun was out! I taught at Coulsdon for many years – lovely place! So sad. :-(