Nearly one third of staff at pupil referral units warned their jobs could go

STAFF at pupil referral units in Fenland and East Cambs could lose their jobs following a proposed cut back.

Education chiefs say the current service capacity across Cambridgeshire is under used following the decision by a growing number of heads to make provision for more youngsters in their own schools.

The council has begun a 30 day consultation period which could see the pupil referral unit in Barton Road, Ely, close and the skills centre at Longhill, March, also close.

The tuition learning centre in Burrowmoor Road, March is also under threat but the main Fenland centre, in Station Road, March, will be saved but probably move to a new purpose built unit in Wisbech once planning is agreed.

Across the county similar cuts are proposed which could see up to 33 of the 113 employed in the service lose their jobs.

Tom Jefford, head of youth support services, said: “Once we looked at it district by district we quickly realised we had too much provision which has created the engine for change,”

Money allocated for teaching children excluded for whatever reasons from main stream schools is being funnelled more directly through individual schools and heads can decide how it is spent.

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In Fenland, for example, the area has previously provided for up to 160 in the pupil referral unit and the Support and Tuition Centre but schools now want to buy just 50 places, said Mr Jefford.

He said that “the whole service was being reformed with a new curriculum and a much closer working relationship with schools”.

Fenland schools will have around �1 million to spend on providing “more tailored support. In return the county will have to up its game to ensure schools do provide effective education for groups of kids that heads have previously sought to pass to the Pupil Referral units.”

Alternative usage for the March skills centre set up three years ago is being considered, said Mr Jefford; it has industrial quality machine tools, a workshop and classroom.