Grant joy - but protests continue

PUBLISHED: 07:27 10 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:59 22 October 2010

Norfolk is to share in a £10m government scheme to help keep children in school - as protests grow against further education cuts at one of the county's biggest colleges.

Norfolk is to share in a £10m government scheme to help keep children in school - as protests grow against

further education cuts at one of the county's biggest colleges.

The Department for Education announced yesterday that Norfolk had been selected as part of a pilot project to boost aspirations and improve the number achieving five good GCSEs.

In Norfolk last year, 52.6pc of students reached the minimum standard to move on to further education - an improvement on recent years but still below the national average.

But as the initiative was announced vocational courses providing vital

further education opportunities for thousands appeared under threat.

More than 200 people gathered at City College Norwich to protest at the

cancellation of furniture making and certain motor vehicle engineering courses.

Principal Dick Palmer said the cuts had been made to ensure the quality at the college and denied that other

courses - such as engineering and construction - were under threat.

But Paul Cunningham, chairman of the lecturers union UCU at the college said there was genuine concern that other cancellations could follow. The protests included support staff, lecturers, learning assistants, non-union members and students.

"No one can remember this degree of unity ever at City College," he said.

"Vocational courses are supposed to be the focus of the government's policies for further eduction, yet here is the College cutting exactly what is needed; we have the facilities, the staff, and the demand from students.

"It does beg the question, what vocational courses are next?"

Meanwhile the Student Union is

lobbying the Learning and Skills Council to discuss alternative provision. Union president Jonathan Lovatt said: "Students participated in the demonstration to show their disgust at the course cuts and show their solidarity with the lecturers. The message is: don't ruin our future."

Mr Palmer said: "It is absolutely not true that other vocational courses could be cancelled. These courses were cancelled because they did not meet our standards. But this decision does in fact show our faith in all the other courses on offer. For example our construction faculty has an excellent reputation and we expect to be offering courses like that for many years."

The DfES scheme will focus on Norfolk and 20 other problem areas including Manchester, Birmingham and Wirral with each authority tailoring programmes to their area.

Schools minister Jim Knight said: "We need to ensure that every young person is in learning and fulfilling their potential. The major reforms of secondary education we are currently driving forward will create an education system where all young people have opportunities to learn in ways that motivate and stretch them, a system where, through their own hard work and that of their teachers and tutors, young people will get the support they need to qualify themselves for success in life."

If successful the scheme could be extended nationwide.

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