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Fakenham school to take over factory

PUBLISHED: 10:54 12 May 2010 | UPDATED: 11:18 07 July 2010

Chris Hill

Fakenham High School is engineering a deal to take over one of the town's empty factory units as part of a bold £1m investment in practical education.

It has submitted plans to reinvent an empty building on the George Edwards Road industrial estate as an applied learning centre to meet a rising demand for engineering diplomas among teenagers.

Chris Hill

Fakenham High School is engineering a deal to take over one of the town's empty factory units as part of a bold £1m investment in practical education.

It has submitted plans to reinvent an empty building on the George Edwards Road industrial estate as an applied learning centre to meet a rising demand for engineering diplomas among teenagers.

If the plans are approved by North Norfolk District Council, the leased workshop would be refurbished and equipped to commercial standards.

The development would also include an ICT suite and two classrooms to host college lessons and less formal courses offered by partners including Job Centre Plus, Connexions and Adult Education.

The £635,000 project is the second phase of a development which has already seen £373,000 invested in converting a neighbouring unit into the RNF (Rural Norfolk Federation) Training Centre for construction industry diplomas.

It is hoped the new facility will fill the gap left by the demise of the Fakenham Learning Centre on Norwich Street, which was run by the College of West Anglia until it closed in 2007.

Andy Williams, deputy headteacher at Fakenham, said it was vital to boost the provision of applied learning courses which bridge the gap between academic subjects and job-specific vocational studies.

“Within the government there has been a drive to ensure that routes into higher level training and higher education should not just be through GCSEs and A levels, and that's what this is about.” He said. “It is all about providing that alternative route, but providing it locally so our teenagers don't have to get on a bus to King's Lynn or Norwich.”

Mr Williams said students would benefit from the centre's location next to an existing commercial firm, C&W Engineering.

“It is part of the appeal,” he said. “We are spending £200,000 to kit out the workshop using the same industrial standard which they use at the firm next door.”

Government funding for both project phases was secured through Norfolk County Council and grants from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA).

If approved, the 615 sq m building will be the base for five staff and able to accommodate up to 40 pupils at a time.

It adjoins the RNF Training Centre, which has trained 65 diploma students from high schools in Fakenham, Wells, Reepham, Aylsham, and Litcham since opening in September 2008.

The centre will host a free Keep It Handy event from 10am-2pm on Saturday, offering guided tours and the chance try bricklaying and electronics activities or discuss career opportunities with training providers.

Jo Stone, the school's Aim Higher coordinator, said: “We are trying to raise aspirations and motivate more young people to enter higher education. This is about targeting those young people who perhaps don't have a family background of higher education, or a lack of aspirations.”

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