Help us save valuable learning centre

Date: Tuesday 29th May 2018

Sir, Appleby Heritage Centre has provided a valuable provision for practical students in the Upper Eden Valley for 22 years.

Due to continuing pressure on school budgets, the throughput has been cut back to the point that, through no fault of our own, we cannot carry on trading. We are not “broke”, but we will be if something does not change.

A mainstay of our delivery is the provision of apprenticeships and if this were expanded we could carry on and indeed thrive.

The problem we face is the lack of either a direct contract with the Department for Education (DfE) or a subcontract from another, larger training provider.

The DfE will not give us a direct contract because we are too small; our throughput is seen, presumably, to be more trouble than its worth. We are lobbying government to grant us contracts on the basis that the current system is discriminatory to young people in the Upper Eden Valley in particular and sparsely populated areas generally.

The local colleges see us as competition and want the students for themselves. This is a fallacy as the ability of students to attend them is very problematic if they can’t drive, which, of course, most of them can’t.

We, the trustees, are desperate to see the centre survive as we think it will be greatly missed if it is allowed to fold. The Government is waking up to the fact that technical is just as important as academic education. It has not woken up to the fact that this area is very sparsely populated and that the means of travelling to colleges is non-existent or at best expensive and lengthy.

We need help in the short term of some sort of guarantor to see us through to better times providing we can secure apprenticeship contracts. If we cannot secure a contract we have no alternative but to wind down the centre.

Ideally we would like to be taken over by a larger charity which could secure contracts in their own right and which could share the back office costs. This was the plan with the Oaklea Trust, but, due to other commitments, it pulled out of discussions, as reported in the Herald a few weeks ago.

Our MP, Rory Stewart, is putting our case to Anne Milton, the Secretary of State for Education and Training, and we await the outcome of these discussions. We are not asking for more money from the education pot, just a redistribution of what is already available. If anyone can help in any way could they please contact the centre on 017683 53350 or email infoapplebyheritagecentre.org.uk. Yours etc,

JONTY ROSTRON

(Chairman, Appleby Heritage Centre trustees)

By email