Funding boost for Lowestoft sixth form college plans

Hayley MaceA scheme to improve post-16 education in Lowestoft was given a �15m boost yesterday as the government announced it will help to fund a new sixth form centre.Hayley Mace

A scheme to improve post-16 education in Lowestoft was given a �15m boost yesterday as the government announced it will help to fund a new sixth form centre.

Plans for the new centre, to be built on land next to Lowestoft College on St Peter's Street, were put on hold earlier this year amid fears that the project would be set back by delays in government funding.

Yesterday, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) confirmed that it will give �15m towards the project, which will replace the sixth forms at Lowestoft's three high schools as part of Suffolk County Council's shake-up of education in the town.

Waveney MP Bob Blizzard met Ed Balls, secretary of state for schools, at the end of October to put the case forward for Lowestoft as concerns had been raised that the money for the project might be diverted towards other schemes which had already started.

Mr Blizzard said he was delighted to hear that the town's plans will be going ahead. "It is a compelling case. Youngsters have been voting with their feet and going to the sixth form college in Gorleston, which has resulted in a dramatic decline in achievement and post-16 participation rates in Lowestoft's high schools' sixth forms," said Mr Blizzard.

"The �15m announced will fund a state-of-the-art sixth form centre facility that Lowestoft needs to raise learning standards. It's a great Christmas present for our young people and for future generations of students," he said.

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Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for children, schools and young people's services, said: "This is fantastic news and it is now full steam ahead to develop this new facility for the young people of Lowestoft.

"As part of the school organisation review, we identified a real need to make the learning opportunities for young people in the area more varied and exciting. A purpose-built 21st century facility will certainly help achieve this.

"It is pleasing that the LSC has recognised the importance of this project. The school organisation review will see the county council invest a further �40m in schools in the areas, including �12m for a new high school at Pakefield."

Designed to revolutionise post-16 education in the town, the sixth form college will house about 1,000 students and is due to open in September 2011 when Lowestoft's middle schools are scrapped and high schools take pupils from ages 11 to 16 only.

The proposed building features an open internal atrium providing open plan study space and an external grass quad, which will form the natural centre of the campus. With new vehicle access from Rotterdam Road, leading to a new staff and visitor car park, the sixth form centre will also have pedestrian links to the neighbouring Water Lane sports centre.