'Cold and callous' - Parents fear cuts to centre will harm anxious teenagers

Deborah Dunseith, from Old Buckenham, with her son Alex Dunseith, 17, who has anxiety and studies a T Level in IT at the...

Deborah Dunseith, from Old Buckenham, with her son Alex Dunseith, 17, who has anxiety and studies a T Level in IT at the Develop training base in Barton Way, Norwich. - Credit: Deborah Dunseith

Parents of teenagers at a "nurturing" independent training centre are devastated after the government cut its funding.

Eight students, mostly aged 16-18, who started the two-year T Level IT course in September 2020 at the Develop site on Barton Way, Norwich, will have to continue studying at City College Norwich or Thorpe St Andrew High School Sixth Form after Easter.

Some of the teenagers suffer with anxiety and have previously struggled in traditional education settings, according to Develop's chief executive officer Mark Pike.

At present, the £2m handout from the government's Education and Skills Funding Agency to Develop, which has six other sites across England, will end this summer because of a weak financial assessment caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Mr Pike.

Mark Pike, CEO of training provider Develop, which has a base on Barton Way, Norwich.

Mark Pike, CEO of training provider Develop, which has a base on Barton Way, Norwich. - Credit: Develop

Deborah Dunseith, 55, from Old Buckenham, said the change was a huge setback for her son Alex, 17, who has anxiety, adding: "Alex's confidence is fantastic now. We are devastated for Alex and are angry that funding can be pulled by a government which says it is committed to education. It is cold and callous."


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She said Develop's sessions were more nurturing for its pupils, compared with other further education centres, due to fewer pupils and a higher teacher to staff ratio.

Andrea Bell, 47, with her son Elliot Antunes, 16. who is on the two-year T Level IT course at the Develop centre on Barton...

Andrea Bell, 47, with her son Elliot Antunes, 16. who is on the two-year T Level IT course at the Develop centre on Barton Way, Norwich. - Credit: Andrea Bell

Andrea Bell, 47, from Saxthorpe, near Aylsham, whose 16-year-old son Elliot Antunes would have to change sessions after Easter, said: "We picked this provision because it was small and an ideal environment for our son. He is considering dropping out of the course altogether to avoid more disruption and a mid-year move. After an awful year he has finally settled in and loving his course so this is the last thing we expected."

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Mr Pike said it was decided to move the T Level IT students after Easter to ease the transition with support from Develop staff.

Develop's base on Barton Way, Norwich, which offers BTEC, City and Guilds and T Level courses for mostly 16-18-year-olds.

Develop's base on Barton Way, Norwich, which offers BTEC, City and Guilds and T Level courses for mostly 16-18-year-olds. - Credit: Develop

He added around 30 other students on Develop's one-year BTEC and City and Guilds courses would remain at the Norwich base until the end of the academic year.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The ESFA can confirm that Develop has been issued with notice of contract termination. The notice period for contract termination is longer than the ESFA would usually give and does not come into force until the end of July 2021. This is in order to minimise disruption to learners thereby enabling the majority to complete their studies with Develop rather than transfer to other providers."





  

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