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Woodpeckers Court outdoor learning site fears Brexit could jeopardise funding for post 16 students

By Beth Robson

A lack of EU funding after Brexit could stop an outdoor learning provider from providing valuable places for post 16 students.

Woodpecker Court, near Eythorne, comprises a therapy hut, two classrooms, two outdoor cooking sites, three workshops, a rifle range, a craft shed and several other team-building areas in woodland near Dover.

The site and expertise of principal Dominic Meehan is being used to reduce unemployment by delivering education and training to young people of all ages.

Dominic Meehan of Woodpecker Court tells MP Charlie Elphicke how Brexit will affect learning provision there
Dominic Meehan of Woodpecker Court tells MP Charlie Elphicke how Brexit will affect learning provision there

But Mr Meehan is concerned about its ability to continue offering training to unemployed young people over the age of 16.

He says that the government will not fund places for students without an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) – even though many other young people would benefit from courses.

He said: “We have a strong reputation among local schools, agencies and the local authority.

“For two years now every learner leaving us post 16 has accessed a sustained destination, therefore preventing youngsters not being in employment, education or training.

“If students do not have an EHCP we have been relying on European Social Funding to fund places. This runs out in September because we are leaving the European Union.

“This leaves us in a position where we will not be able to admit new learners without an EHCP from September, many of whom would not do anything else because of a lack of suitable provision.”

"This leaves us in a position where we will not be able to admit new learners without an EHCP from September" - Dominic Meehan

Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke visited the site – and has urged government ministers to pick up the funding.

He said: “This facility allows people of all ages to access our beautiful woodland and learn important skills at the same time.

“It’s exactly the sort of alternative provision that is so useful inspiring young people outside of the traditional classroom.

“We need to ensure places like this get the support they need, so that young people get the education they need.

“I have asked ministers to look into this urgently.”

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