Thorpe St Andrew pupils take on council over cuts
Chris HillA group of Thorpe St Andrew school children have written complaints to Norfolk County Council to vent their anger at proposed funding cuts to their favourite outdoor study centre.Chris Hill
A group of Thorpe St Andrew school children have written complaints to Norfolk County Council to vent their anger at proposed funding cuts to their favourite outdoor study centre.
Year Five students from Hillside Avenue Primary School enjoyed a three-day residential stay at the Wells Field Studies Centre in October.
But soon after they returned, they learned the council was discussing the possibility of cutting the �250,000 annual subsidy given to the north Norfolk centre and a similar one in Holt Hall.
Teachers realised it was an ideal subject matter for the students' persuasive writing lessons - and the youngsters pulled no punches in expressing their feelings.
As well as their enjoyment of outdoor learning, the 10 year olds wrote about the value of independence and teamwork, while stating their concerns for the job prospects of the centre's staff.
One letter says: 'I cannot believe that Norfolk County Council could even consider the possibility of depriving future children of the opportunity to experience such an amazing place.'
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Nicole King, the teacher who organised the school trip, said: 'The children's feelings were genuine and the letters are written from the heart. They were horrified to hear the centre could be in danger of closing.'
Another teacher, James McCrea, said: 'As adults, we are always encouraged to write to MPs or councillors to say how we feel about these issues, so this was a perfect opportunity to get the children to write about what they think for a real purpose.'
The letters were addressed to county councillor Mervyn Scutter, the Lib Dems' education spokesman, but were also forwarded to Shelagh Hutson, cabinet member for children's services.
She said: 'I was delighted to hear that the children in Thorpe St Andrew enjoyed themselves at the Wells Field Studies Centre. I have written to them to thank them for their letters and assure them we take their views very seriously indeed.
'We value residential fieldwork and are committed to doing everything possible to make sure children and young people in Norfolk have the opportunity to benefit from such a positive learning experience.'
Norfolk's children's services overview and scrutiny panel discussed options earlier this month to establish in-house provision at Holt for the next two years - but said this would require it to 'explore alternative uses' for Wells.
Opposition Labour councillor Bert Bremner, a former teacher, said: 'The reason this centre needs to stay open is it gets the children out of the classroom and into the countryside, which makes their work seem real. Maybe the children can convince the cabinet of the study centre's value.'
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