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Norwich youth project under threat

PUBLISHED: 06:30 23 July 2011 | UPDATED: 12:18 23 July 2011

Students who are facing closure of the school at Future Project.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Students who are facing closure of the school at Future Project. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2011

A specialist Norwich school unit praised by the Home Secretary is facing closure after it lost vital funding.

A pupil speaks...

Tom Ingleton, 15, has just finished Year 10. He joined Future Education around four months ago.

He was excluded schools in North Walsham and Sheringham.

“I was chucked out for arguing with teachers and had a couple of fights. I then went to Sheringham and was chucked out for the same thing”, he said.

After spending time at a pupil referral unit he was given a place at Future.

“After I came here I didn’t mind coming to school. We do proper lessons but we have more space”, he said. “I just didn’t get on with teachers and I was distracting all the other people in the school. It is a lot easier here.”

He has just completed his first year of GCSEs in English, Maths, Science, ICT and he is also doing BTECs in Countryside and Art.

“If you are stuck with something the teachers talk to you and help you out and if you do not understand things they explain it properly to you.

“They let you talk to your mates in class as long as you are getting on with your work.

“If it wasn’t for this place, I would still be at pupil referral unit and getting excluded every week.

“I don’t have a clue where I am going now. It probably won’t be anywhere good. Here I know all the teachers and know all the pupils, and I know that everything is going to be all right. “I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to do, but I want to get good grades so I can get a decent job. Some of the work I’ve started here will go to waste. I will have to do lots of stuff in Year 11 and at a different place it will be hard.”

Independent school Future Education helps teenagers with emotional and behavioural difficulties, who are now facing the prospect of being unable to return to lessons there when the new term starts in September.

The school’s funding crisis has devastated parents and pupils, who have spoken to the Evening News about how Future Education has turned their lives around.

Future Education, operated by the Future Project, in Motum Road, North Earlham, has lost a contract from Norfolk County Council to give Year 10 and 11 pupils an academic education and said that other projects at the charity could be at risk.

Home Secretary Theresa May praised the project when she visited in March, saying that it showed how communities could pull together to improve the quality of life on their own doorstep.

Earlier this year, Norfolk County Council decided to re-tender its contracts for alternative education for young people in years 10 and 11, specifically for those who cannot be educated in mainstream schools or pupil referral units.

Although Future Education applied for two contracts, one was withdrawn and they were unsuccessful with the other, and the CfBT education trust will take over countywide provision of the alternative education in September.

Norfolk County Council said the new arrangement would mean “equality of provision” across the county, but it is hoping to hold talks with Future Projects.

The new contract will just provide vocational and foundation education, meaning the Future students, many who are half way through academic GCSE and BTEC courses, would only be able to continue with those qualifications if they returned to the schools they were excluded from or pupil referral units.

Ian Johnson, chair of the trustees of Future Education, said: “This is a high performing organisation making a very positive difference to the lives of young people in the area with a recent good report from Ofsted.

“Future works with families and the community as a whole, not just young people with difficulties, and therefore understands the wider context that they operate in, and is working to improve those factors as well. The whole organisation is at risk by this potential decision which has only looked at one part of the service provided.”

Future Education registered as an independent special school for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties and for students with a statement of special educational need in 2009.

Parents said they were worried that their children, many of who find moving school unsettling and had only started to flourish at Future Education.

They said they did not know why there had been no consultation and they had only found out days before the end of term.

An Ofsted inspection last year said that Future Education was providing a “good” standard of education and a satisfactory standard of welfare, health and safety.

It said that although registration has only taken place in 2009, the school has successfully built upon the work that it is has been doing with teenagers over many years.

“The most striking feature is the way that it successfully places high importance on education and examination success alongside supporting students’ social and emotional development. The local authority, students and their families speak very highly of the school”, the report said.

Mr Johnson said the trustees were investigating if the decision could be challenged.

The students receive a holistic, community-based alternative education programme and the school caters for up to 28 young people who are who are at risk of, or have been permanently excluded from mainstream education.

This alternative curriculum is available on a full, part time and bespoke basis.

Alison Thomas, cabinet member for Children’s Services at the county council, said: “We are spending £4.5m over the next three years to support alternative education for young people in years 10 and 11 who cannot be educated in mainstream schools or pupil referral units.

“We have to ensure we are getting the best value for money and quality from what is a specialist area of education and we have just gone through a rigorous tendering process to make sure that contracts are awarded fairly.

“Decisions were made by a panel that included parents, young people and an educational psychologist, who closely considered the needs of individual children.

“Unfortunately Future was unsuccessful on this occasion as we had a bid from another provider whose bid scored higher on both quality and outcomes for children and young people. CfBT Include will now take on this work from the autumn term. We will be working with Future to ensure those young people in year 10 currently receiving support will continue to do so and their placements are not disrupted.”

Future Education was set up in 2003 as an alternative provision which was used by schools in the city.

Have you been helped by Future Education? Call reporter Annabelle Dickson on 01603 772426 or email annabelle.dickson@archant.co.uk

What do you think? Write to Evening News letters at Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE, or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk


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