Islington college locks its doors to stop Facebook protest

A COLLEGE locked its doors to pupils and staff today (Wednesday) in a bid to stop an overnight student protest descending into uncontrollable chaos.

A group of students from City and Islington College’s sixth form in Goswell Road, Finsbury, were planning to occupy the college tonight - and posted public invites on the social networking site Facebook.

Students from throughout London were encouraged to attend the sleep-in before journeying to Westminster tomorrow to take part demonstrations against the Government’s hike in tuition fees.

Although the group received only 45 replies, and despite organisers promising that the protest would remain low-key, teachers feared that the occupation could descend into mayhem.

Danny, 17, a City and Islington student, was planning to take part in today’s occupation.

He said: “We were texted last night about the college closing. I think it’s a massive cop-out by the college. We weren’t planning on causing any damage - the protest was against the cuts, not against the college.”

According to Danny, the students in charge of the occupation were threatened with suspension before teachers made the final decision to close the college late last night.

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He said: “The college were threatening the organisers with suspension. I think the management have over-reacted. This was never about causing trouble, it was about making a statement. Now all students will have to suffer by missing a day of teaching.”

After discussions with college directors, organisers also decided to cancel the occupation. They posted an apology on the Facebook page and urged their fellow students to attend tomorrow’s demonstrations instead.

It said: “After serious consideration and persuasion from both students and supporting teachers, we have now decided a college occupation is not the best way to achieve our aim. Instead we plan to be seeing you all at the protest on Thursday and urge you all to attend, irrespective of college being on or not.”

Keren Abse, director of the sixth form college, said she had been particularly concerned because many of the protesters at the sleep-in would have been under-age.

She said: “Unlike university students, our sixth form college students are under 18 and we have a duty of care to them as young people. We did not feel we could guarantee the safety of students if the occupation were to go ahead and therefore as the least worst option we decided to forestall the occupation by closing the Angel campus.”

Some teachers claimed they had not been made aware of today’s closure. A number arrived at the campus this morning to find the gates closed and a sign indicating that the school was shut.

One woman, who did not wish to be named, said: “I wasn’t told that they were planning to close, I had no idea. It doesn’t seem particularly organised if they haven’t even managed to tell all the teachers.”