Forest and Cotswolds MPs challenge Government on National Star College funding

Almost 9 months to the day since Cotswolds MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown first raised the issue of the effects the Government’s moratorium on funding projects would have on the National Star College, the MP and his colleague Mark Harper, MP for the Forest of Dean, today together challenged the Further Education Minister Kevin Brennan MP as to what progress the Government have made in securing the funding.

The National Star College situated in Geoffrey’s Cotswold constituency provides specialised services for learners who have physical disabilities and associated learning disabilities for young people throughout the UK. The development work that has been delayed will provide new facilities for the support and care needs of students with severe disabilities, providing privacy and dignity, incorporating the development of life skills in realistic living environments and ultimately promoting their learning.

Speaking at Business, Innovation and Skills questions in Parliament, Mark Harper, said:

“May I ask the Minister for further education about the National Star college, which he will know is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) and on whose behalf he has been campaigning assiduously? The college has a national remit to help young disabled people, but its capital programme was not funded. It recognises the tough economic climate that we are in and has made proposals to the Minister to reduce the amount of public funding that it needs. What can he say to the House today to demonstrate that the Government are truly committed to helping young disabled people across the country?”

Continuing the line of questioning, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, then said:

“May I raise with the Minister the subject of further education and the National Star college? The college provides some of the finest residential training anywhere in the world, and it has worked extremely hard to raise £2 million of its own money, which will be in jeopardy if it cannot access funding from the Government. It has also worked very hard at the Minister’s behest to take 15 per cent. off the cost of the project. Will he redouble his efforts to see whether he can find that funding?”

Geoffrey later commented:

“Anyone who has seen the work the staff do can only be overwhelmed by the wealth of skills and opportunities they provide for the students and this re-development can only further their capacity to improve the lives of the most severely disabled young people nationwide. This point was made only too clear to the Minister when I accompanied the College’s Principal Helen Sexton and Assistant Principal Peter Horne to meet with him to present their case in July this year.”

“The uncertainty that that is being caused by the delay in finding a solution is distressing for the staff, current and prospective students and their families. I am determined to see that the National Star College is able to receive the funding necessary to complete this work and will continue this long fight to secure it.”

Photo: From left, Mark Harper MP, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP and Mark Coote PPC for Cheltenham meet with students and staff from the National Star College during their Lobby of Parliament in July this year.

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