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Proposals to take over the running of Halesworth training centre to be examined

PUBLISHED: 13:00 28 May 2016

North Suffolk Skills Academy, Halesworth.  PHOTO: Nick Butcher

North Suffolk Skills Academy, Halesworth. PHOTO: Nick Butcher

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There is fresh hope that a vocational training centre set to close next year could be kept open as an educational facility.

The North Suffolk Skills Academy (NSSA) in Halesworth is earmarked to shut in summer 2017 after its directors said a drop in the number of students had made it no longer financially viable.

But this week, a spokesman for Suffolk County Council said the authority was “committed” to keeping educational provision at the site.

The spokesman said the council had received a number of expressions of interest in the facility, and these have now been whittled down to a shortlist of four.

The four bodies are being invited to present their case in front of a panel next month, where their proposals will be looked at in further detail, although the identity of the four groups behind the proposals is not yet known.

Areas such as value for money will be looked at, and if any of the four proposals meet the council’s criteria, they could take over the running of the facility as soon as Bungay High School Academy Trust, which currently runs it, pulls out.

It is understood that the Trust had a lease on the building until 2018, but informed the council it wanted to end that lease a year early.

In making the decision to pull out, directors said they had explored alternatives, but that the financial risk of the NSSA was one Bungay High School could no longer bear.

The centre, which was formerly known as the North Suffolk Skills Centre, was previously saved and relaunched by Bungay High School in 2013 after a number of other schools pulled out of a partnership arrangement.

The Suffolk County Council spokesman said they would be looking “as much as possible” for a like for like training centre, which would minimise disruption to youngsters currently studying at the facility.

It provides vocational courses to young people aged between 14 and 19, mainly from the Beccles, Bungay and Halesworth areas, studying courses including catering, engineering, construction and hairdressing.

Vice chairman of Halesworth Town Council David Thomas said: “We fully support the continued use of the facility as an educational establishment.

“It would be very good if the skills centre were to be retained under local control.”

A petition against the closure of the NSSA has been set up online, with organisers saying it was a “great opportunity” for children in rural areas and imploring something to be done to stop its closure.

What do you think about the plans for the building? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters, 20 Blyburgate, Beccles, NR34 9TB or email bbj.letters@archant.co.uk

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