WILTSHIRE College has confirmed it will not take over outdoor education provision from Braeside in Devizes, after it said it did not fit with its aim to provide higher education.

Wiltshire Council sparked a petition that gained more than 16,000 signatures from worried parents in March 2018 when it announced Braeside and Oxenwood’s closures.

The council originally cited high restoration costs and low attendance figures for reasons behind the closure, despite managers claiming that there were long waiting lists from schools to use the Devizes and Marlborough services.

There was renewed hope for the two centres when the council announced Lackham College and charity Community First had entered bids to take over the sites.

Now, that hope has been dashed as Wiltshire College confirms it has declined to take its bid further.

The decision was made during the December meeting of Wiltshire College governors and has now been conformed by principal Amanda Burnside.

In a statement confirming the departure, she said: “We review lots of opportunities with potential partnerships and we did look into this proposed opportunity at Lackham where we already have a considerable estate and already have provision for accommodation.

“We looked at the fit strategically and how we want to grow in the future which really is focussed on higher education. We had to look at the school outdoor education market and see if it was a strategic fit for us.

“After doing this we declined the opportunity to move forward. It was not a strategic fit for us. Our priority is for higher education, so aged 16 and above.

“Although engaging with schools is very important, we’ve decided it would not be appropriate to have that mix of students from primary up to degree level.”

BIDS to take over Braeside outdoor education centre in Devizes are being reconsidered after Wiltshire College confirmed it would not be continuing its bid to take it over.

Although named as Wiltshire Council’s preferred bid, it is believed that Wiltshire Council is now considering previous bids to keep the centre open.

These include Classes Abroad, which will continue outdoor education combined with foreign language classes and trips from other European schools.

Another bid, which would also see Braeside remain open at its current site in Devizes, came fromm Magdalen Environmental Trust, to form a charity alongside Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.

A third bid came from Adventure Learning Foundation, which outlined plans to continue services alongside birthdays and family fun days.

Philip Whitehead, Wiltshire Council cabinet member for finance, said: “We have a great deal of interest in continuing outdoor education in Wiltshire from a number of parties.

“Although Wiltshire College withdrew, we have quickly taken up the process with the other bidders and we will be progressing with those. I anticipate announcing a preferred bidder soon.

“Meanwhile I encourage schools to have a look at what’s on offer at the sites and book up now for the many activities on offer.”

Responding to the news that Wiltshire College has pulled out of its bid to run outdoor education in place of Braeside in Devizes, Cllr Jon Hubbard said: “It is a shame as it was a good solution.

“I understand that the council is still seeking to find a provider who will carry on delivering the offer for children there. It could now mean that another provider will continue to run services from the Braeside site. I hope that we can find a solution.

“Having spoken to officers and senior councillors there is an absolute desire to keep outdoor education going and from a scrutiny point of view that is what we also want.”

Chairman of managers at the site Dave Borrie said: “Wiltshire Council has not been very transparent with this. I believe there are still three bidders interested in Wiltshire but it is not known if they need to reapply or are working with Wiltshire Council.

“Schools are still very keen on using Braeside but some schools obviously have had to pull out because of the uncertainty for their children.

“The staff seem very concerned for their jobs. Many say they have considered leaving.”