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Call to support field study centres

PUBLISHED: 09:36 03 March 2010 | UPDATED: 10:24 13 July 2010

The uncertain future of study centres in Holt and Wells has prompted rallying calls for the public to question education chiefs at a meeting next week.

The uncertain future of study centres in Holt and Wells has prompted rallying calls for the public to question education chiefs at a meeting next week.

Norfolk County Council last month approved a £250,000 funding cut to the residential study centres on Polka Road in Wells and at Holt Hall.

A report by the director of children's services in January said the department was looking at ways to establish in-house provision at Holt for the next two years, but exploring “alternative uses” for Wells.

Those plans should become clearer when the county's environmental learning strategy is discussed at a meeting of the children's services overview and scrutiny panel at County Hall next Thursday.

The meeting is open to the public, and questions can be asked directly to the panel as long as they are submitted to the council before 5pm on Monday.

Dr Marie Strong, county councillor for the Wells division, urged townspeople to grasp the opportunity to put any concerns directly to the panel.

“Residents from Wells and neighbouring villages have asked questions which I cannot answer,” she said. “The next crucial meeting is that of the overview and scrutiny panel when hopefully answers will emerge - whether the answers indicate a positive future remains to be seen.

“What I do know is that Wells Field Studies Centre has for decades provided an excellence experience for young people from all over the county, many from urban areas and from areas of disadvantage.

“The Wells centre should not be closed, rather we should be looking as to how it can be developed and flourish as a centre of excellence. The more people who are at the meeting and the more questions which are read out, the more members of the panel will hear these concerns.”

Shelagh Hutson, the county's cabinet member for children's services, said: “We are looking at the viability of Holt and Wells and considering how our environmental and outdoor learning services can adapt and develop to further meet the needs of Norfolk's schools and their pupils. We have made a commitment to continuing with outdoor and residential education as part of what should be on offer to Norfolk's young people. We will continue to offer that ourselves where the business model is sound.”

Agenda papers detailing proposals for the Wells and Holt centres are due to be published online at www.norfolk.gov.uk/committees later tomorrow. The panel's meeting will be held at County Hall, Martineau Lane, Norwich at 2pm on Thursday, March 11. Public questions must be submitted by 5pm on Monday, March 8, to Kristen Jones on 01603 223053 or kristen.jones@norfolk.gov.uk


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