Future of learning centres in jeopardy

PUBLISHED: 13:17 12 February 2009 | UPDATED: 13:02 03 July 2010

SHUTTING a trio of learning centres across the borough could have a direct impact on the lives of people looking to improve their job prospects and home-computer skills, said the man who runs them this week.

SHUTTING a trio of learning centres across the borough could have a direct impact on the lives of people looking to improve their job prospects and home-computer skills, said the man who runs them this week.

Jim Edmonds has run the three satellite operations at Greenacre, Caister High and Bradwell Community Library for around seven years, helping an estimated 3000 people.

But a squeeze on adult education funding means the axe is hovering over the drop-in centres where people learn at their own pace to achieve a range of qualifications.

Great Yarmouth MP Tony Wright is raising the issue of funding at national level, calling on the secretary of state to try and divert other resources.

Mr Edmonds said the learning centres which also offer outreach services had been funded by East Norfolk Sixth Form College for the last three years but that their future now looked uncertain.

He added: “Adult education funding disappeared three years ago but the college kept us on in the hope it would come back. They have been paying for us out of their own pocket. But there is just nothing out there for us.”

Five jobs depend on the centre as well as the hundreds of people across the borough currently accessing the courses.

Laurie Poulson, principal at East Norfolk Sixth Form College, Gorleston, said everyone at the college was taking a long, hard look at how to make ends meet and that no final decision would be made until the Learning and Skills Council told them how much was in the purse at the end of March. He said it was likely the college would end up with less money than it needed threatening the future of the “very successful” free On Line UK courses and Clait courses run from the learning centres at a cost of around £100,000 a year.

However, the college was exploring other funding streams and understood the Government was going to put more money into training for the unemployed.

He said: “At the moment we are hoping all the background fuss we have made will come to something. We have never made money on the learning centres, we have always subsidised them from other funding streams because we believe that is right for the community.

“We may have to make some hard decisions. Whatever happens we will go to the end of the academic year and we hope we can keep them going after that. I do not want to see them go. They have done great things for a lot of people. The staff involved are excellent and have brought many people a really long way.”

Among those to benefit from the courses is 66-year-old Keith Williamson from Rollesby, who has taken a range of courses enabling him to share, store and edit photographs, create a website for his artist wife's on-line card sales and master a range of skills. He described the courses as “absolutely tremendous” helping him to keep pace with modern life and bridge the generation gap. Around half the people taking courses are hoping to boost their chances of finding work.

Yarmouth MP Tony Wright said the college had become a victim of its own success attracting more students but leading to funding dilemmas. “We do not want the learning centres to shut because they have been a huge success but we do not want the college to have a short fall either,” he added.

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