�1.2m engineering and construction training unit in Fakenham to close

A �1.2 million engineering and construction training unit in Fakenham is to close just two-and-a-half years after it was completed, it has been announced.

The unit underwent a major expansion, which was completed in January last year, and was hailed as a catalyst towards keeping skills within the local area.

It was used for engineering and construction diploma subjects by students from Fakenham High School and College, Alderman Peel High School in Wells, Aylsham High School, Litcham High School and Reepham High School and College.

The schools make up the Rural Norfolk Federation (RNF). This organisation leased and managed the facility, which is on the George Edwards Road industrial estate.

The funds to run the diplomas came from a number of external sources including government funding which has now stopped.

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The RNF has announced that the facility will close in July 2013, allowing students currently taking diploma courses at the facility to complete them there.

Head teacher of Fakenham High School and College Matthew Parr-Burman, said: 'The previous government saw construction and engineering diplomas as the way forward but the current government has different priorities which are more towards traditional subjects like English and maths and has removed the funding.

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'The costs to run the diplomas are too high for the schools to run on their own.

'We have written to the prime minister, the secretary of state for education and local MPs and done everything we can without success so we have regrettably had to make this horrible decision to close the facility.'

Mr Parr-Burman added: 'The RNF will continue to work closely together to support all students in the north Norfolk area, regardless of which school they attend or whatever their ability.'

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, who was recently promoted to minister for employment relations, consumer and postal affairs, opened the expanded unit in January 2010, and, at the time, expressed hope for other facilities like it to be built in rural parts of Norfolk.

Mr Lamb said yesterday: 'I am very disappointed to hear that this facility will be closing.

'Giving skills to young people to enable them to get employment with local businesses is vitally important.

'This current government is putting lots of energy into apprenticeship schemes which have been successful in Norfolk and other parts of the country.

'The difficult dilemma the government has is that is currently spending �150 billion more than it is bringing in through taxes and action has to be taken to sort this out.'

He added: 'I am very keen to speak to the people involved in running the training unit in Fakenham to see if anything can be done.'

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