Hills Road Sixth Form College to open a new, second campus in North Cambridge

I think they should go the whole way and move the entire institution to the site where the Cambridge Sports Lakes Trust propose building a new rowing lake – as that provides a sizeable market of young people willing and able to use the rowing and swimming facilities that could be built there, while at the same time spreading access to academic-led further education courses across our county

TL/DR? Have your say here.

This post sort of follows on from my one about Nik Johnson’s proposals to deal with further education ‘cold spots’ in Cambridgeshire. Since I wrote that one, we’ve both been in hospital and have had heart surgery at Royal Papworth (his more serious than mind) and lived to tell the tale.

“The history dates back to the 1990s when the only way further education colleges could get extra funding from central government was by increasing places. Which is what both Hills Road Sixth For College and Long Road Sixth Form Colleges did – resulting in a large section of the county’s older teenagers being crammed into a very small part of the county.”

Cambridge Town Owl 25 Nov 2021

As I mentioned in the earlier post, the reason why so many teenagers are crammed into a small part of South Cambridge is because of decisions mainly driven by central government and the private sector. The first was the massive expansion of numbers both our Sixth Form Colleges in the 1990s – themselves only established in the 1970s following the overhaul of state education which got rid of segregation by gender. Thus the old County High School for Girls became Long Road SFC, and the County High School for Boys – former Headmaster Brinley Newtown John, became Hills Road SFC. (As a local history aside, I am still of the view that Cambridge still has no idea of the talent we lost when he took his family to Australia – although I can understand the reason behind it – essentially a last ditch attempt to save his marriage which sadly ended in divorce). I discovered this when researching his musical co-operator Ludovic Stewart when both were effectively employed by Cambridgeshire County Council. (Lilian Mellish Clark and Clara Rackham – both councillors and governors of what is now Anglia Ruskin University, were involved in recruiting both!)

“Why lose all that lovely history of the site?”

The history does not need to be lost, but the changing needs of the city means there is a new opportunity to deal with three different sets of problems all at the same time:

  1. The overcrowding of further education academic places in one small part of our ever-growing city
  2. The transport congestion that bussing in (and railwaying in!) hundreds of students every day causes to one of the most busiest road junctions in Cambridge
  3. The lack of a specialist lifelong learning college that other cities have and that the House of Commons Education Select Committee recommended every city and town should have.

“What do the students get out of it?”


Above – from Cambridge Sports Lakes Trust

The website above lists the facilities below:

Outdoor facilities

  • 3.2 km of multi-lane training water, connected to the River Cam and including a 2 km long international standard competition course
  • A triathlon facility suitable for day-to-day training and hosting all levels of competition
  • A 3-mile long cycle circuit built to international competition standards.
  • A combined competition and training BMX track
  • An angling lake
  • A 2km cantering track
  • A network of cycle paths connecting to Cambridge and Milton Country Park
  • A busway linking Waterbeach to Cambridge North station
  • Educational and nature trails

Indoor Facilities

  • Large boathouse and launching facilities
  • Gymnasium
  • Weights
  • Ergometers
  • Rowing teaching tank
  • Sculling teaching tank
  • Club, conference, research, and crew rooms
  • Crew and coach accommodation
  • Café and dining 

Which sounds splendid!

Given that the [controversial] Greater Cambridge Partnership are consulting on a new busway route for Waterbeach Newtown in principle there would be a new public transport route to the site from Cambridge and neighbouring villages.

In the grand scheme of things you get state-of-the-art facilities for a new generation, and also the chance to open an additional railway station (&/or – I hope – a light rail stop) because the Cambridge-King’s Lynn line runs alongside the proposed rowing lake. Furthermore, the Cambridge – Ely cycle route is next to it as well (although they might need a cyclebridge to get over the railway line)

Above – From the Combined Authority here, “11” means National Cycle Network Route 11

The move would enable the Combined Authority to reuse the site for a lifelong learning college.

That deals with a host of issues I wrote about on an holistic approach to lifelong learning here, and also what one might contain in terms of additional facilities that make facilities accessible and usable for parents and carers. Furthermore, we have an example from 1968 on what an ideal lifelong learning college might be like – which might inspire future developments for one we might want today.

Given the huge changes in society we are currently going through, the changing nature of work, and the continued expansion of our city, now is precisely the time to be making such a radical change in how we deliver public services to make them far more accessible for the many, not the few.

Food for thought?

If you are interested in the longer term future of Cambridge, and on what happens at the local democracy meetings where decisions are made, feel free to:

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