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Stephen Hawking calls for National Star College funding U-turn

Globally-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has joined calls for the Government to reverse a decision not to fund National Star College, which teaches learners with complex disabilities.

National Star College has become one of the victims of the Learning and Skills Council’s (LSC) funding shortfall, which has halted much needed capital works and modernisation started last year. Half its costs were on course to be financed by the government, but due to what one recent Parliamentary select committee called "chaotic management", the scheme is now plagued with uncertainty.

"On the basis of the unique and national nature of the College’s provision and the extremely specialised needs of its students it is urgent to reconsider the funding position of the National Star College and to find an alternative source of Government funding to enable this invaluable project to go forward," said Prof Hawking in a letter sent directly to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, which was co-signed with his daughter Lucy.

The letter urges Mr Brown to reverse the decision to halt funding to the tune of £6.5 million for the Gloucestershire-based college, widely recognised as one of the UK’s leading specialists in education for students with complex physical disabilities.

"The National Star College helps to transform the lives of young people, increasing their confidence, teaching them skills and preparing them for an adult life as independent as possible," added Prof Hawking.

Helen Sexton, principal of National Star College, commented: "We are thrilled by the response to our campaign and extremely grateful that Professor Hawking has written to the Prime Minister on our behalf. As a national resource we contend that National Star College is an exceptional facility, and unless we gain the funding previously earmarked by the LSC we will need to make some tough decisions including potentially reducing the number of places offered to students."

The physicist’s call coincides with US President Obama’s announcement that he was awarding him with the Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honour.

(Pictured: Principal Helen Sexton (left), Lucy Hawking, Professor Stephen Hawking and students)

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