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Threat to hobby-based evening classes

PUBLISHED: 10:52 14 June 2010 | UPDATED: 18:02 30 June 2010

Thousands of adults who take hobby-based evening classes are facing a big hike in their fees in a move that could have a "dramatic and damaging effect" on lifelong learning in Norfolk.

Thousands of adults who take hobby-based evening classes are facing a big hike in their fees in a move that could have a “dramatic and damaging effect” on lifelong learning in Norfolk.

The length of most sessions will also be cut from two hours to one-and-a-half hours as Norfolk County Council's adult education chiefs try to reduce costs ahead of predicted government funding cuts.

Last night, head of service Beverley Evans admitted the changes could trigger a big fall in the number of people accessing the courses, from 8,500 this year to as low as 6,500 in 2010-11.

She said: “There will be less government funding this year. We believe that we need to look carefully at how we manage the service. We want to survive in a challenging environment and we won't unless we make changes.”

From September, the hourly rate for the leisure classes - including old favourites like life drawing, sugarcraft and pottery - will go up by more than 20pc from between £4.25-4.50 to £5.50.

The review has caused some disquiet, with one tutor angry claiming that users and teachers were not consulted, and only found out about the changes via an internal memo.

The tutor, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “Since sessional tutors are only paid according to the actual hours they teach, with lesson preparation and marking included in that, many are facing a dramatic loss of earnings.

“There seems to be a determined effort to make fierce cost cuts from poorly paid tutors at the frontline. This could have a dramatic and damaging effect on the provision of lifelong learning in the county.

“It will leave many learners unhappy and could threaten some courses. We only learned about all this from a memo. There's been no proper discussion or negotiation with tutors.”

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