Staff and pupils fighting to save specialist training college
- Credit: Jess Coppins
Distraught staff and pupils at a specialist training centre are appealing for financial support after being forced to close from lack of government funds.
The Develop centre on Norwich's Barton Way teaches education and life skills to between 50 and 80 teenagers mostly aged 16-18 with complex needs, including autism.
But the centre is facing closure on July 31 because the government's Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is stopping funding.
Develop Norwich centre manager Jayne Popp said: "We should not be failing young people."
She added students from across Norfolk choose Develop because it is a small centre and its 10 staff can offer dedicated support.
Mrs Popp said Develop had been working on a proposal to encourage ESFA funding but the government department decided the running of the centre should go to tender.
She said despite Develop staff looking for training places for its pupils, they were difficult to find which could force them into unemployment.
A Norwich parent said: "The decision to cease funding will impact on my son’s education as he will not be able to complete his next level exams nor will he have the benefit and trust of the Develop staff in nurturing and guiding him."
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Mark Pike, Develop chief executive, said: "Norfolk County Council is no longer concentred with our current students, and have not involved themselves in supporting their progressions from the centre. Considering how the pandemic has so adversely impacted on young people this seems an unbelievable stance to take.
"There are tentative discussion to see if another organisation could come into Norwich which would potentially help maintain this type of provision but we have been advised by the ESFA that the council is sorted for provision. It is not just about availability it is about suitability and appropriateness to meet student needs."
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Providing young people with quality further education is our priority, and the ESFA continues to work alongside local authorities to ensure this is the case.
“Develop has been issued with a notice of contract termination."
A county council spokesperson said: "We have offered additional support for learners completing their programmes with Develop EBP, and we have been assured that existing learners have either already been transferred to other local providers or are approaching the completion of their programmes of study at the end of this academic year and most have plans in place for their next steps."