Community learning service to close despite passionate calls to save it


A call to stop the closure of various adult and disabled learning programs was rejected.

A special North East Lincolnshire Council full board meeting saw members debate a motion from the Labor opposition group calling for the authority to keep the Community Learning Service (CLS) at the Skills Hub open.

The service, whose operation had been heavily criticized by Ofsted, was put under the spotlight by the then Labor-controlled council earlier this year, resulting in a petition that drew more than 2,500 signatures aimed at saving it .

But under the new Tory board, the remaining Labor advisers also called for the formation of a select committee to investigate the decision to shut down the service.

Leading the call was Councilor Matthew Patrick, who said, “What the CLS offers our community is a second chance for those who would otherwise have a hard time getting one. This can include service users who for whatever reason have failed in school. the first time, or users of services with complex needs that conventional higher and continuing education cannot meet.

“Much more than just a matter of academic achievement, CLS is a fantastic cornerstone of the local community, strengthening social cohesion and supporting some of our hardest to reach residents at all stages of life.

Councilor Matthew Patrick was the senior adviser behind the motion

“This is what defines us if we ever were or will continue to be a compassionate council.”

The call was also supported by Dick Appleton, an activist whose daughter with autism is taking classes at the Skills Hub on Freeman Street. He spoke about the positive effects of the service on his daughter’s skills, confidence and self-esteem.

He said he wanted the advisers to take another look at the service before shutting it down.

Mr Appleton said: “If a commercial enterprise, bank or football club failed in a way highlighted by Ofsted’s reports, heads would fall. New leaders would be installed to help existing staff to hand over the things on track, just the opposite seems to be happening in this case.

“It seems to me that the CLS is Grimsby’s best kept secret. Let’s celebrate and support it, rather than doom it to shutdown.”

Leading the Conservative group’s stance against the motion, Deputy Head of Councilor John Fenty said: “I am dismayed that Councilor Patrick can bring forward a motion to overturn a decision he and his cabinet colleagues have taken there. just a few weeks ago to close this poorly managed file. service.

North East Lincolnshire Council Deputy Head Councilor John Fenty pictured in the Council Chamber at Grimsby Town Hall
Councilor John Fenty led the Conservative group’s position against the motion

“He should bow his head in shame, to give the impression that this decision can be overturned is shameful, giving false hope to the petitioners.”

Mr Fenty also offered his support to those affected by the closure, saying: “Skills are my responsibility and I care deeply, no matter what decision I make, that learners, and those who need it most. help, have a good education.

“In this regard, I am confident that it can be achieved locally.”

The Labor group provided case studies of the service to support the motion, including Alex Troy, who started as a shy learner in 2017 and has developed his skills and self-confidence to the point of being named student youth governor . He then graduated and took part in a second year internship.

Another example was Brandon Howard, whose behavioral issues affected both his attendance and his engagement in class. The CLS organized a behavior and attendance plan with goals to achieve, as well as discussions about her curriculum, which greatly improved her behavior, attendance and engagement in class.

A petition against the closure of some Skills Hub services has collected more than 2,500 signatures

Councilor Debbie Rodwell, who represents the district of Sidney Sussex, said: “We have to look again, this is too important to be lost.

“If there is any change just keep the basics of what it is, it’s a fantastic service and it works for the people of this city and not the other way around. We have to keep that.”

But Councilor Ian Lindley, of the Scartho district, said the opposition was guilty of “political stance at the highest level”.

He said: “Continuing to provide a service that is not fit for purpose is dishonorable. It is not a viable service and we will treat learners with contempt by continuing to provide it.”

Humberston and New Waltham advisor Stan Shreeve said: “The case studies we heard tonight are compelling, but they are not representative of the overall performance of this facility, otherwise we would not be in the situation in which we find ourselves.

“Shutting down a dangerous service and providing effective alternatives foresees the future. What we see here is nothing more than a catalog of disasters.

Dick Appleton, left, gave a speech to advisers about the Skills Hub’s great job with his daughter

“For four years, Ofsted has highlighted declining standards, resulting in inadequate assessments for the community learning service. After the first critical report, action should have been taken, and perhaps it was. , but they were not effective, putting our residents and service users at risk. “

After the meeting, which saw councilors vote 17 to 12 against the Labor motion, with UKIP councilor Jane Bramley abstaining, Mr Appleton said: “Judgment was inevitable if they wanted to play it that way. .

“If they wanted to be an open and honest advice, and a listening advice, they could have supported the motion and agreed to set up a select committee to look into why these decisions were made, with the number of people who have said there was so … a lot of misinformation and lack of information that was acted upon.

Regarding Mr. Fenty’s commitment to learners in the future, Mr. Appleton said: “It is their job to find a replacement and replace it with something better. It is their duty, they all have a duty.

“My daughter pays housing tax, she has autism but pays housing tax, she is an integral part of the community and deserves the same chance in education as any other person, but she certainly does not have it. not this evening.”

Over North East Lincolnshire Council

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