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Educating Norfolk: The rural dimension

PUBLISHED: 07:00 25 February 2014 | UPDATED: 11:11 25 February 2014

Jon Clemo, chief executive of the Norfolk rural community council.
Photo: Bill Smith

Jon Clemo, chief executive of the Norfolk rural community council. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2011

For years, a whole series of issues facing education in Norfolk have been grouped together under the banner of ‘rurality’.

Jon Clemo, chief executive of the Norfolk rural community council, said: “Norfolk has faced a historical challenge of relatively low skills and aspiration and therefore relatively low ambition, and that is accentuated in rural areas.”

He said the skills gap particularly damages youth employment in Norfolk because there are a large number of small and medium-sized firms which do not have the capacity to train young staff in skills they may lack on entry.

He said: “It’s very hard for a business to make any other decision in interviews than to go with the person who has many more years’ experience, rather than the young person who may have great potential but would require investment.”

He highlighted two specific ways rurality affects education in the county: the tension between retaining small village schools and providing better facilities and expertise at larger schools, and long commutes to sixth form that see a number of students drop out by the winter of their first term.

He said Norfolk still has a reputation as “the graveyard of ambition”, and it was vital to improve the county’s reputation, both internally and externally.

He added: “There’s a challenge in helping young people see where they want to aim at, and setting that point high enough that it pushes them to maximise their potential, but is still sensible and achievable. We have struggled to get that right.”

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