MP's plea for Lowestoft 6th form centre

Hayley MaceAn MP has called for reassurance that overstretched government funding will not delay the building of Lowestoft's new sixth form centre.Hayley Mace

An MP has called for reassurance that overstretched government funding will not delay the building of Lowestoft's new sixth form centre.

The proposed �28m college will eventually house up to 1,000 students and has been designed to revolutionise post-16 education in the town.

Concerns have been raised recently that money for the development, which will be on the same site as Lowestoft College in St Peter's Street, could be delayed because the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) is limiting the amount of funding it releases each year.

This could mean that the project has to be delayed, or that the estimated construction costs will rise above the available LSC grant.

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Yesterday, Waveney MP Bob Blizzard met children and schools secretary Ed Balls in London in a last ditch attempt to secure funding for the important project.

The building 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 and is due to open in September 2011 when the town's middle schools are scrapped.

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Mr Blizzard said: 'We know that 16 to 19-year-olds want a sixth form college. Many are already deserting high school sixth forms and travel to the East Norfolk sixth form college at Gorleston. There should be an equally good facility here in Lowestoft.

'Worse still, increasing numbers of youngsters who cannot afford the travel costs are dropping out of sixth form altogether.'

He added: 'The result is falling participation rates for A level courses and decline in A level exam grades achieved at Lowestoft schools. This under achievement has to be addressed. It's vital for Lowestoft that we have a well-educated workforce for the future.'

Delays to the project could also mean that A level students have to carry on studying at the town's high schools until the building is ready.

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said: 'We welcome all support in achieving the sixth form college for Lowestoft which is vital to improving education achievement in the area. The potential problem relating to funding has arisen entirely because of the pressure on the LSC's capital programme. However, we are very hopeful that the Lowestoft scheme will be given a high priority.'

The LSC is expected to make a decision on the funding application for the new sixth form college later this year.

A headteacher has now been appointed for the new high school in Pakefield, Lowestoft.

Following interviews last week, Perry Linsley, who is currently headteacher of Stradbroke business and enterprise college in Suffolk, has been named as headteacher for the school, which is due to open in 2011 on the site of the current Pakefield Middle School.

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