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Ebbsfleet United’s ‘Learning Zone’ under threat

PUBLISHED: 17:22 06 October 2010

Director Jessica McQueen outside Ebbsfleet United's Stonebridge Road ground

Director Jessica McQueen outside Ebbsfleet United's Stonebridge Road ground

Archant

The future of an initiative set up to run educational lessons alongside football to inspire pupils in danger of under achieving is at risk after funding was axed.

Kent County Council subsidises Ebbsfleet United’s Fleet Learning Zone scheme, which is based at the ground in Stonebridge Road, Northfleet, and works with about 20 Gravesham schools.

Set up just three years ago under the government’s Playing for Success programme, club bosses have now been told the £6,000 they receive annually will stop at the end of March next year.

It means the club will have to raise the money to pay for the hire of classroom facilities, supplied by Ace Portables, or fund a permanent base on the site.

Club director Jessica McQueen said: “It is a huge blow but we are not the only organisation in this problem. The cuts the country is experiencing is going to have an impact on a lot of projects and we are just one of those.

“This scheme has been a great success and both the club and council want it to continue. We are working together and will do all we can to keep it going.”

She added: “Despite the funding issue we are in a good position. We have plenty of computers, video conferencing and editing facilities and ample parking. On top of the work we do with the children we want to establish this for the community, not just the club. We want to run adult numeracy and literacy classes for those who do not want to attend a school-like facility. The big task now is attracting the interest and backing to secure the long-term future.

“Many schoolchildren have benefited from the facility, where they may have not made us much progress in a typical school environment.”

Kent County Council bosses say they have been forced to withdraw from the scheme because funding is no longer available from central government through the Department of Children, Schools and Families.

Mrs McQueen says the club is due to negotiate the hire renewal next month but would prefer to buy its own facilities to cut down annual hire costs,

She added: “It has become obvious the local authorities are keen for us to continue with this excellent work already being down but we would have to work closely with them in the coming weeks to see how funding for this could be achieved. It could be that local schools could find funding themselves or maybe a sponsor could come forward.”

Fellow director Duncan Holt, Katie Burgess, a board member of the MyFC internet-based group which owns the club, and Mrs McQueen are looking in to other avenues to raise funds.

She said: “We are looking at all avenues for other usage of the building to generate income, such as using it for a training or seminar facility,”

l If you can help or have any ideas email jessica@eufc.co.uk. To find out more visit www.fleetlearningzone.co.uk

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