The ongoing Southern rail strikes are having a ‘devastating effect’ on Chichester College and its students.
Principal Shelagh Legrave OBE told the Observer: “On normal strike days we are seeing a 10-15 per cent drop in attendance, it’s having a huge affect.
“In some courses we are seeing students really struggling to keep up-to-date with their work because they’re unable to get in.
“We’re doing an enormous amount to support our students’ learning, we have Chichester Online which is a brilliant virtual learning environment, but it is not a replacement for face-to-face teaching.
“Our staff are also struggling to get in, they are tired when they get home and are losing a lot of their own personal time.”
The college is just a ten-minute walk from Chichester Railway Station and hundreds of its students rely on the trains to get there.
A-level student Delyth Hartley got so fed up of waiting for delayed trains that she now travels in by bus every day.
“I come in from Cosham and used to get the train but during the strikes there’s no trains from the station, and even when there aren’t strikes on they are always delayed,” the 16-year-old said.
“I just got fed up waiting at stations for train that didn’t stop or were cancelled.
“It takes and hour on the bus and they are always very, very busy but they’re more reliable than the train.”
Fellow A-level student Devika Vijith, also 16, lives in Goring so has little option but to catch the train in.
She said her studying had already been affected and doesn’t know how she will get to the college next week when there will be no service on some of the days.
Devika said: “It’s all everyone is talking about, how we are going to get home.
“I’ve been stuck at stations for an hour at a time and turned up halfway through my lesson.
“I’ve got mocks coming up in January and I already feel behind so I need the extra lessons with teachers.”
Next week is the start of the drivers’ strike, which will mean no Southern service at all on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday (December 13, 14 and 16), with a ‘severely reduced and disrupted service’ on every day of industrial action.
The following week there is the latest RMT conductors’ strike on Monday and Tuesday, December 19-20, and then again on New Year’s Eve, Saturday December 31 to January 2.
Another drivers’ strike is then planned in the new year.
Law lecturer Caroline Reynolds said many of her students come from as far away as Brighton and Southampton and often turn up late for lessons.
“I come in from Shoreham, I looked at getting the bus in next week but it’s 2hrs 42mins to Chichester so I’ll be driving in.
“But many of our young students don’t have access to cars so don’t have any other option.”
Mrs Legrave said students at the Brinsbury campus had also been badly affected by the strikes, which began in April this year.
“These students have this opportunity to study at what is a key time in their lives and Southern rail is making it really difficult for them,” she said.
“There’s a clear correlation between attendance and achievement in every subject.
“The strikes are having a devastating effect, not only on the college and our learners but also on businesses in Chichester.
“I’ve written to ministers and had letters back saying we are not prepared to involve ourselves in an industrial dispute.
“I’m not taking sides but I plead with Southern and the unions to get around the table with (mediator) UCAS and resolve things.”
The college will be fully open next week during the strikes and will be supporting students.
How have the strikes been affecting you? Email us email@example.com
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