Somerset Skills and Learning Centre closes after government funding cuts

PUBLISHED: 08:00 14 December 2017

The Somerset Skills and Learning centre in Burnham. Picture: Google

The Somerset Skills and Learning centre in Burnham. Picture: Google

Google

Burnham-on-Sea’s Somerset Skills and Learning Centre (SS&L) has closed down following huge Government funding cuts.

The Mercury reported in September the learning and traineeship service, in Princess Street, had its funding from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) reduced from £3.5million to £111,000.

The decision faced strong opposition, including from MP James Heappey, which meant the cuts were scaled back and a lifeline emergency fund of more than £2million was given to the centre the following month.

MORE: Somerset Skills and Learning Centre receives emergency government funding.

SS&L chief executive, Susie Simon-Norris, said at the time: “We’re relieved the ESFA has been able to find some additional funding, however, we need to remember this is a transitional sum for this academic year.

“We still don’t think the Government realises that by reducing our funding Somerset’s community misses out on vital community education.

“We will need to address the shortfall in funding this year, but also prepare for future years.”

However, the centre was one of six under threat of closure across the country, and around 50 staff are in discussions over their redundancies.

MORE: Government cuts threaten Somerset with ‘terrible blow’

Despite the closure, SS&L is using external venues to continue to deliver its courses locally, with Burnham Library and the Princess Theatre agreeing to host classes.

Director of curriculum at SS&L, Kathryn Baker, said: “We’re delighted these two venues have agreed to host our courses and we are now finalising plans to deliver English classes in the library and maths classes at the Princess Theatre.

“We are currently in negotiations across all areas where we have had to close our own centres to work with external venues to continue to deliver our courses and apprenticeship training.

“We have been overwhelmed with the support from local communities who have benefited from our training and education and we are doing our best to ensure we can continue to provide them with opportunities to gain qualifications in maths, English, childcare, support teaching, health and social care and computing and digital skills.”

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