School ‘work experience’ is hit by cuts

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SCHOOL work experience programmes in Suffolk have been hit by Government cuts.

The Government has removed funding used by councils, including Suffolk County Council, to run work experience databases.

Operated by the council’s Work Experience Unit, the database helped schools to select and check possible placements for work.

Although the existing database will still be operational until 2013, schools are having to plan ahead to find information on future work placements.

It is not yet known whether schools will face additional costs by using alternative sources.

Careers co-ordinator at Thurston Community College, Caren Falconer, predicted it would be a problem for schools in the future.

She said: “We were lucky as one of the very few areas to be completely funded by the council. Because we had never paid anything before, it is going to be a huge outgoing for schools in the future. Part of the problem is that the Government was trying to make work-related learning non-statutory, adding fuel to the fire. At this school it is still an important part of our young people’s education.”

Vicky Neal, headteacher at County Upper School, in Bury St Edmunds, said: “The database was available to all Suffolk schools as the work placements all need to be checked.

“Suffolk County Council is not maintaining that unit which will mean finding someone else to do the checks – we are yet to find out whether this will cost us more money.”

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “In May 2010, the Government removed the funding it gave all councils to support work-related learning activity – including work experience at Key Stage 4. In line with other local authorities, Suffolk County Council has had to review the way it supports schools to provide these kinds of learning opportunities. Schools are being supported during this transition phase and Suffolk County Council will continue to work hard over the next year to support schools to plan and develop new work experience programmes.”