Mr Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP has today raised his concerns about the level of funding for the National Star College with the Prime Minister in a PMQ.
National Star College is the leading national College for students with complex disabilities in the country, with Ofsted ranking it as ‘Outstanding’ after a visit in June 2012. The College has an internationally recognised reptuation for educating some of our most disabled 16-25 year olds enabling them to live an independent a life as possible.
However, concern has arisen because under the Government’s Localism agenda, this year funding for students attending specialist colleges will become the responsibility of Local Authorities, but it will not be specifically ring fenced.
One risk is that local authorities will use the funding for other purposes and students with these very complex disabilities may then end up attending mainstream institutions within their own home own areas that simply cannot offer the same facilities or levels of support. Another risk is that the funding may end up in one local authority area with the individual students needing support in another.
On the 19th December Martin Horwood MP and Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP met with the Minister of State for Education David Laws MP to plead the case that central funding be retained so that these colleges can continue their excellent work. In return the Minister promised to fully investigate this matter.
Mr Clifton-Brown MP has written to David Laws MP today to follow up the meeting, but as a result of yesterday’s PMQ a meeting with the Prime Minister remains an option.
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con): The national star college in my constituency provides world-renowned care for some of our disabled youngsters with the most profound and complex learning difficulties to enable them to lead independent lives. Sadly, its future, like that of a few similar colleges, is being placed in jeopardy by a decision not to ring-fence its funding. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will wish to solve this problem, so may I invite him to the college to see this wonderful care for himself?
The Prime Minister: I am very happy to discuss this issue with my constituency neighbour, who rightly praises the fantastic work carried out by the national star college. It does an excellent job in improving the life chances of young people. I know that the college has concerns about the new funding system and that my hon. Friend has contacted the Minister responsible. We are changing the way in which funding is allocated, but that does not necessarily mean that the funding will be cut. I am very happy to discuss this with my hon. Friend, but the new funding system does allow local authorities to have more say in how the funding is distributed, and I am sure they will want to recognise excellent work, including from this national college.
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