People in Norwich urged to support vital city school
People in Norwich are today urged to show their support for a vital city school as politicians face questions over a decision to cut council funding at the nationally-praised and successful pioneering project.
Parents of children at the west Norwich school plan to march on County Hall on Monday, where a meeting will discuss the funding plans, and the wider community was today urged to add its voice to the campaign to change the council's mind.
As the Evening News reported last week, Norfolk County Council has decided to withdraw a contract for academic education which Future Projects provides for more than 20 children at its Motum Road base. The charity was set up in 2000 by two local mums in response to anti-social behaviour in the west Norwich area.
After proving successful in turning youngsters away from crime and bad behaviour, Future opened a school after securing funding and, in 2008, began teaching 28 children with behavioural difficulties who had been expelled from local schools. The following year it registered with Ofsted as an independent special school for children with emotional, social and behaviour difficulties and/or a statement of special educational needs.
This year Norfolk County Council has axed the contract, and Future Projects says its loss will have significant implications for the community and children across Norwich.
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The county council says the contract was for 10 places and claims existing facilities throughout Norfolk can meet the needs of the children, either through short-stay school (formerly the pupil referral unit), special schools, mainstream schools, or commissioned services.
Parent Marianne Kane is just one of those who will be attending Monday's meeting. Her 15-year-old son, Jake, was excluded from a number of schools when he became a known trouble-maker but Future Education transformed his life. He has just finished Year 10 at Future Education, but faces uncertainty about what will happen to him in Year 11.
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She will be asking the cabinet questions about her son's education.
She said: 'It is nice to see the support and we've had. We have even had support from the United States. A lot of people are passionate about it.'
She said she would be asking about the qualifications her son would be receiving. 'We want to see as many people as possible at Monday's meeting.'
Norwich South MP Simon Wright has called on Norfolk County Council to look at reinstating the contract.
'That is clearly the strongest outcome for Future', he said. 'It is something the council should be actively exploring at this stage to see what is necessary.
'If that cannot happen we need to know very very soon how provision at Future will continue.'
Daniel Childerhouse, spokesman for Future Projects, said today: 'We really appreciate the support from the public and politicians. The backing shows the value of what we offer because these are the voices of people who have friends and family who Future has helped over the years.
'The fact that these people have the confidence to speak up for something which is important to them is testament to the school's success. These people understand the value of Future Projects because they have benefited directly, this is something the tender process cannot recognise.
'We understand politicians are there to enforce the will of the people and this show of support is democracy at its best and shows a clear commitment to community empowerment and localism.'
Evening News editor Tim Williams said: 'It would seem to be a very short-sighted decision because the charity is a fantastic community project which has a proven track record in delivering equality education.
'Over the years it has been praised by successive home secretaries. There is no better definition of the Big Society in action than this sort of schooling for challenging children, who, after all our the future of Norwich.
If you are unable to attend the meeting on Monday, at 10.30am at County Hall, Martineau Lane, Norwich, staff and parents at Future have suggested people can contact their local MP or county councillor for Norwich.
Chloe Smith can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org, and Simon Wright at email@example.com.