Having moved from St.Leonards in 2010, Sussex Coast College (formerly Hastings College) is one of the first things you see as you arrive in Hastings and leave the train station.
As you leave the station you are often greeted by the site of students and teachers smoking outside the college. The ground is littered with gum and fag butts and at particularly busy times, students can stretch from right outside the front doors, right across to the road and people arriving or leaving the station will have to ziz-zag through students. Often the odd skateboard or two is careering across the path. This whole scene was for some years, framed rather depressingly, by the mediocre message writ large on a banner, that Ofsted had rated the colleges teaching as satisfactory (now rating at good).
I have heard that students have been asked to smoke behind a particular point. I can’t validate this without phoning up but won’t be – please read on as to why I won’t. It might be the grill in the middle of the walkway, outside the front of the building, which could certainly be used to mark a boundary . The 4 teachers I saw chatting and smoking outside of the college would have been on the correct side of it, if there really is a boundary line for smoking.
The Sussex Coast College reception laughs at me.
So I walked into the college the same afternoon as the incident and approached the reception desk. I had to wait for the two staff manning the desk to stop talking to each other about some, not entirely pressing, matters (cough, gossip). I told them about my meeting with their skateboarding student and about Priory Meadow’s policy on cycling and skateboarding and how I had seen more and more students using bikes and skateboards in Priory Meadow. I mentioned that it was wasn’t very clear that they weren’t allowed to ride through as the shopping centre didn’t sign at all but could they pass a message on to the pupils. Then I said that students (college passes around necks) skateboarding and cycling through the centre was not only a nuisance and a danger (my ankle) but also reflected badly on the college.
I realised that I wasn’t getting through to the girl as she wasn’t writing anything down and was habitually nodding to show interest. I asked if she could make a note so that nothing was lost in translation and I would leave my details. The guy who wasn’t involved in the conversation started sniggering to himself. The girl begrudgingly picked up a pen and started to scribble something in some arcane shorthand then told me that she would have the students told the next day. Then she started laughing to. It seemed insulting. I left.
Another dubious promise from Sussex Coast College
The next day I phoned but there was no record of a message being left or anyone having been informed. I left my name and number for someone to phone me back (again) but ended up having to phone them about the issue. I bypassed the receptionist, asking them to put me through to someone higher up, though I can’t remember who. The person I spoke to sounded like she might be taking the issue seriously and apologised for my experience the day before. She said that the students would be informed and thanks for bringing this to issue to her attention. So this time I followed up by asking students and teachers if a message had been sent around. It never happened. I was beginning to feel a little sour towards Sussex Coast College.
And Sussex Coast College’s reception lies again
Funnily enough, I was standing on the platform at the train station not long after. Pupils were on smoking during their break. Two members of staff came out and lit up. I phoned the college and said that I thought that students and staff smoking outside reflected badly on the College and that it wasn’t in keeping with their policy (which appears to have changed now). Someone informed me that they didn’t let that happen and it must be a rare incident that I had noticed. I let them know I was standing on one of the station’s platforms and didn’t appreciate being lied to. There was a brief silence then the receptionist assured me that she couldn’t see anyone out there. As she was saying this someone rushed out and pulled the teachers in and dispersed the students. Groan.
I’ve had the appalling experience of drinking a coffee in town and hearing college management loudly talking about private college matters. I hope if they read this article that they start to show more awareness as to their public presence. The students aren’t a great problem but how hard can it be to educate your charges and ask them not to cycle and skateboard around town? How hard is it for staff to treat a member of the public, a fellow human being, with some decency and decorum?