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Trust draws blank in bid to replace £60,000 lost council funding
LANGUAGE classes for children in Southampton could be axed after funding for the sessions was cut.
As part of their cost-cutting drive Southampton City Council told users of the Community Language Service which teaches minority languages to around 750 in the city, they would no longer be able to fund the scheme.
The authority has provided £60,000 a year to the service to pay for classroom rental and tutors to teach languages to primarily children from minority ethnic communities to help them learn their heritage languages.
Youngsters are given the opportunity to gain qualifications up to A-level standard in an array of languages including Afghani, Bengali, Chinese, Malay, Polish, Somali and Urdu.
Last year the council said it would be withdrawing the funding at the end of the 2013/4 academic year and advised members of the various schools to form a trust in order to secure alternative funding.
However, it is understood that so far the trust has not been successful in its bids and now the fear is there will be no funding available to the schools come September.
Bo Zhu, head teacher of the Chinese school in Southampton, said in reality it was costing around £40,000.
“Our best estimate is that we will have to halve our numbers and classes and double the costs.
"We don’t anticipate all our families will be able to afford that and so I am very concerned about the impact it will have.
"It may be that in a few years we will have to call it a day.”
Leader of the council Simon Letts said it was faced with making difficult decisions about prioritising funding.
“It was a decision that was made last year that we simply could not continue to fund the service with the financial pressures we are under.”
Cllr Letts suggested that one way to ensure the service continued was for families to contribute.
But Mr Zhu said families already shouldered much of the cost.
Secretary of the Community Languages Trust Steph Smith said they had had a positive meeting with the council.
She said: “Supporters of the Community Language Service have been fighting for many years to maintain the service because it is very valuable for the city.
The service has a high approval rating from parents and communities and they contribute at least 15,000 hours of time per year plus paying for resources in the classrooms, materials to use for homework, and additional costs of the classes above and beyond the council’s contribution.
“There is great concern that the service is in danger of closing down in July 2014.”
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