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Study deal on wheels;FE Focus

A college in one of the most remote areas of England and Wales has decided to take its courses to the people - with the help of a pound;125,000 classroom-on-wheels.

Up to 12 students can be catered for in the bus where everything from basic-skills training to sophisticated computer courses is on offer. Most students previously had never met their tutors.

Staff at Northumberland College decided to set up the bus after conducting research into how it could provide training for people in isolated areas. The bus took to the road for the first time last week and will operate in areas north of Alnwick up to the Scottish border.

In its first week the bus, which is equipped with state-of-the-art laptop computers, was used for lessons on global communications including the Internet and e-mail.

Patti Budd, the college's director of curriculum, said that this part of Northumberland tied with Powys in Wales as the most thinly-populated area of England and Wales.

She said: "Lack of public transport, unemployment and long travel times to the more populated areas make it very difficult for people in these isolated communities to take advantage of existing learning and guidance services."

Initial fears of poor take-up were quickly overcome as demand may soon outstrip availability.

Cash came from the European Union's Regional Development Fund and Government Competitiveness fund.

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