Vocational centre plan is scrapped

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PLANS for a vocational training centre in Atherton have been abandoned because of changes in government policies on education.

The 14-19 Centre, which would have offered vocational training opportunities outside of a classroom setting, was to be housed in the old Hesketh Fletcher High School site.

However, changes in Government policy, including focusing on young people aged between 16 and 25 rather than the 14-19 age group and backing the creation of Atherton Community School on the Hesketh Fletcher site, has meant Wigan Council has taken the decision to scrap the project.

The 14-19 Centre has already been overtaken by other new vocational training opportunities in the borough, such as Central Park Training in Norley Hall, which is backed by Wigan Warriors, and the proposed University Training College (UTC) which will also create opportunities for young people to pursue non-academic pathways into the work place.

The local authority will instead look at ways to use the cash earmarked for the Atherton project to create more training and educational opportunities for local children and young people.

Wigan Council Leader, Lord Peter Smith, said: “Our core strategic objective of improving life opportunities and independence for young people in the east of the borough can now best be met by ceasing investment in the 14-19 Centre.

“The 14-19 Diplomas have all but been abandoned and Government investment is now directed increasingly towards the 16-25s.

“The decline in the number of 15-19 year olds in the borough between now and 2018 will see post-16 training and educational providers competing to attract pupils from a significantly decreasing pool.

“We are now considering other means of meeting young people’s needs by investing this capital more effectively.”

Educational organisations and local councillors also backed the council’s change of emphasis.

Lowton High School head and chair of the borough’s Association of Secondary Headteachers, John Shanahan, said: “Government plans for the Free school in Atherton have put the Council in a really difficult situation. “The Borough’s schools are in great need of additional investment and we hope some of the freed up capital can go to meet this need.”

Coun Susan Loudon, cabinet portfolio holder for children and young people, said: “The landscape has changed significantly, but one thing hasn’t changed and that is our commitment to providing young people with the best possible start in life.”