Swimming instructor’s anger at cuts to Norfolk Adult Education Service courses

Veteran lifegaurd Peter Dukes during one of his swimming training sessions. Photo: Simon Finlay.

Veteran lifegaurd Peter Dukes during one of his swimming training sessions. Photo: Simon Finlay. - Credit: Archant © 2010

A decision to cancel 20 adult swimming courses by Norfolk County Council has been criticised by one of the county's longest-serving swimming teachers.

Peter Dukes, 80, from Poringland, has been a member of the Lowestoft Volunteer Lifeguard Corps for 6

Peter Dukes, 80, from Poringland, has been a member of the Lowestoft Volunteer Lifeguard Corps for 60 years and has been awarded a long service award and a medal of honour by the Royal Life Saving Society.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: Simon Finlay

Peter Dukes, from Poringland, has been teaching people to swim for 47 years and is still going strong at the age of 80.

But he has been left disappointed after the county council confirmed his swimming classes, held at the swimming pool of Norwich High School for Girls, off Newmarket Road, are being discontinued by the Norfolk Adult Education Service (NAES).

Mr Dukes learned about the NAES proposal in a meeting at the start of May and wrote to county council bosses asking them to reverse the decision.

'I find it inconceivable that this decision can be taken in a county that has the longest coastline, together with 200 miles of navigable inland waterways,' he said.

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'And to do so within a year of the most successful Olympic Games to be extremely crass.'

A qualified lifeguard for more than 50 years, Mr Dukes says the fees for private leisure centres and a lack of swimming lessons could see fewer people learning lifesaving skills.

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However his appeals have proved fruitless and NAES bosses have decided to press ahead with the plan.

This is because the county council's programme delivery funding has been reduced from £6.6m to £5.5m – including a cut of £700,000 in the 2012-13 academic year from the Skills Funding Agency.

Beverley Evans, head of adult education at County Hall, said: 'This cut in funding means that the NAES is unfortunately no longer able to offer some of the courses that it has in the past.

'The decision on which courses to discontinue was largely based on where there is less demand or existing alternative provision in the county.

'This is the case for swimming courses and so we have decided to stop provision after the current summer term classes come to an end.

'As a result a total of 20 swimming courses are being ceased in Norfolk. We contacted the affected swimming instructors in the county as soon as we took the decision.

'We are sorry that we have had to make this decision and hope people will be able to find other swimming classes that meet their needs.'

County council leader George Nobbs, leader of the Labour group which is currently part of a controlling alliance with UKIP, the Lib Dems and Greens at County Hall, moved to ease uncertainty surrounding NAES by announcing earlier this month that it would continue in its current form 'for the foreseeable future'.

He declared a full range of autumn term courses will be provided at existing adult education centres, including the historic base at Wensum Lodge in Norwich.

However, a county council spokesman, said: 'The NAES was informed of the reduction in funding before Norfolk County Council's new administration announced that the service would continue to operate as it currently is.

'The county council does not directly fund adult education provision in Norfolk, rather the service receives grants and funding directly from relevant government agencies, so the discontinuation of these courses will not save the council any money.'

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