Newton Rigg College closure confirmed, unless new buyer can be found

It has been confirmed that Newton Rigg College in Penrith will be closed from July 2021, leaving Cumbria without any specialist agricultural education provider.

The future of the farming school was uncertain after Askham Bryan College, which has run the centre for nearly 10 years, asked for an independent review to be carried out by the Department for Education.

The announcement comes despite local protests since the initial announcement was made in May. In a statement, Penrith Town Council said: "Cumbria is a rural county reliant on agriculture and the college is vital to our local communities throughout the County to provide education to our young people entering this sector or joining the family farming enterprise...The Council strongly opposes the closure of Newton Rigg College and would wish to see it remaining open on a single campus with a new and refreshed business model to take it forward successfully in the 21st century."

However, the final decision to cease teaching at Newton Rigg was made on July 20.

Around 117 staff and 888 learners are based at the Penrith Campus. They include 667 further education students and 221 apprentices.

Tim Whitaker, Chief Executive Officer and Principal, Askham Bryan College, said: “We understand the strength of feeling for Newton Rigg. This has been a very difficult decision to make and the prospect of future job losses is regrettable.”

He added: “However, we have no other option given the demographic and recruitment challenges and financial losses that we have faced, which we have shared previously. We are doing everything we can to support our Newton Rigg staff and students during these challenging times.”

Prince Charles on a royal visit to Newton Rigg in 2018. Credit: PA

The Further Education Commissioner is coordinating a new Newton Rigg Strategic Review, which is exploring finding a potential new owner for the site

If a new buyer can't be found, Newton Rigg staff will remain in post until next summer. Askham Bryan says it will work with current students to explore other teaching options once the college closes.

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