Wedgwood Memorial College (WMC) in Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent was founded in 1945 and was one of the first Adult Residential Education Colleges in the country. The local area is closely connected with the Wedgwood family, the College named in memory of the 1st Baron Josiah Clement Wedgwood (1872–1943), a Liberal and Labour MP and great, great grandson of Josiah Wedgwood, the Potter.
1945 began what has been 66 years of vibrant, vital engagement by adults from all walks of life and from every corner of the globe in the scholarly communion that is education. The walls of Wedgwood Memorial College have listened in on it all, to Language, Art, Literature, Philosophy, Politics, Music - the list goes on and on from lofty academic through practical craft and to simply taking in fresh air and freedom. WMC is a very special place to many, seeing students returning year after year for decades. The hospitality of the College and its staff has a deserved national reputation.
Recent years have witnessed a decline in the fortunes of Wedgwood Memorial College. There are diverse reasons for this, some to do with funding and management strategy, others more mundane, reflecting the ups and downs of adult residential education in general. During 2011 a group of supporters and stakeholders began discussions with Stoke-on-Trent City Council about the possibility of the College being run by a Trust under Community Asset Transfer (CAT) rules.
A draft business plan was submitted which would have released the Council of its financial commitment to the facility and allowed the College to reclaim its traditional function as a high-quality provider of Adult Residential Education. On 15th November 2011, the steering group for the CAT proposal were informed that their plan has been rejected and so Wedgwood Memorial College will go forward to consultation with a view to closure in early 2012. The question now is will “the big society” save WMC? At this point the answer is no – not by application for a Community Asset Transfer alone. It seems there is no real onus on our local authority to prioritise the running of facilities like the College by local groups – even when it would seem to be financially prudent to do so.
The aim of supporters of the College is now to rally the support of the “real big society” – and that’s where you come in when you visit SaveWMC.org. Strength of numbers and pressure of opinion will go a long way to help influence the final decision of Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
Use our comment facility to say how you feel about plans to close Wedgwood Memorial College. Your message will go in confidence to Councillors and MPs who can influence the future. Write to your own MP too or anyone else who you believe will be interested in supporting this iconic Stoke-on-Trent College. Yes times are tough and yes services are being lost across the country on a daily basis but there really is no need for this to happen at Wedgwood, not when a team of volunteers is willing to set up a viable WMC for the continued benefit of the community. Please lend us your voice!