Cuts see learning centres scrapped

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TWO multimillion-pound learning centres are to be axed due to funding cuts.

The City Learning Centres (CLCs), which were opened nine years ago, housing some of the most expensive state-of-the art computer and media equipment, are being scrapped this spring.

Built at a cost of about £1.5million, the centres, one based in the grounds of Southmoor School and the other at St Robert of Newminster, have millions of pounds-worth of technology, which schools can access and even borrow.

The CLCs provide students with direct access to audio recording facilities, TV studios with green screens, professional photographic equipment, top of the range software and hardware and teaching by specialists in media and ICT.

Staff at the centres also carry out training for teachers in many areas of ICT, including how to help students keep safe online.

A worker involved with the centres, who did not want to be named, said: “Everyone at the centres and the teachers and headteachers who use them are devastated by the decision. It was expected that funding would be cut, but getting closed down altogether has come as a terrible shock.”

Sunderland City Council’s head of schools and learning, Mike Foster, said the closure is being forced by the scrapping of Government funding for City Learning Centres through the Schools Development Grant, which will end in March.

He said: “Funding provided through this grant is being redirected by the Government to fund the Pupil Premium instead, which goes directly to individual schools to increase education resources for disadvantaged pupils.

“We are currently exploring a range of options with secondary and primary headteachers which will allow us to continue some aspects of the work of the CLCs within schools. This includes making use of the equipment they are currently providing.

“Staff are also being redeployed elsewhere to share their expertise and there will be no redundancies.”

Mr Foster said options being explored with teachers include moving equipment into the council’s Futures training and education centre at Pallion, which primary schools would be able to access, or moving facilities into a primary school with the space and staff to support children from other schools using it.

He said: “While it is unfortunate the City Learning Centres will have to close, both the educational experiences and equipment they provided will now be used elsewhere for the benefit of all schools in our city.”