'Children missing out on learning'

STEVE DOWNES Scores of needy children who cannot go to school may be missing out on getting education on the internet because of "delays in decision making", it has been claimed.

STEVE DOWNES

Scores of needy children who cannot go to school may be missing out on getting education on the internet because of "delays in decision making", it has been claimed.

Norfolk County Council's e-learning programme currently reaches 100 children - including those who are ill, in hospital, refusing to attend school, excluded, teenage mothers or in care.

The service allows children aged from six to 17 who would otherwise miss out to be given a second chance by being taught on computers at their homes or in hospital.

But the manager of the service, Jackie Thompson, said it was under-used and this was holding back potentially "significant" expansion.

Her claims were made during a presentation at the council's children's services review panel. She told councillors that the service, which began three-and-a-half years ago, was providing 780 hours' education per week to a total of 100 youngsters.

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With a budget of £200,000, the programme worked out at £8 per hour of education - a figure that could be cut to £5 per hour if the service reached 150 children, she said.

She said: "We are currently under-used by PRUs [pupil referral units] and the behaviour service. We could expand significantly without huge extra staffing costs. This would bring down the cost to £5 per hour of education if it was expanded to 150 pupils.

"We are currently positioned within the behaviour service and managed by the southern area PRU.

"We are beginning to feel like an over-large cuckoo in the nest.

"Because of the area structure I believe no senior person owns the service and therefore no authority promotes it."

Rosalie Monbiot, cabinet member for children's services, said: "E-learning has provided these young people with an opportunity to flourish in what have been incredibly difficult situations for them."

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