HOME Secretary and Sheffield Brightside MP David Blunkett has welcomed £27m plans to build a further education college in the north of Sheffield.
Plans for the new Hillsborough College have been on the cards for some time and now building work has finally begun.
Detailed plans for its final look were unveiled to Mr Blunkett and a other dignitaries on Friday. Mr Blunkett said the centre would be a "great step forward" for the north of the city and a major boost for schools.
"If we are to overcome the divide which has bedevilled Sheffield, we are going to have to do so by lifting the opportunity that exists in the north and east of the city."
The centre, which is part of Sheffield College, is being built in Livesey Street, close to the city's greyhound and speedway stadium and is due to be completed in 2005.
It is part of a sweeping reorganisation of post-16 education in Sheffield prompted by a highly critical report of Sheffield College more than two years ago which said it was failing its students.
It is hoped it will provide education for between 1,800 and 2,000 school leavers living in the north of the city.
Hillsborough MP Helen Jackson has already thrown her weight behind the plans, which she has again welcomed. "The north of Sheffield boasts a quality of life second to none.
"But what it has badly needed is new investment in post-16 education.Now we have the start of a brand new college right at its heart – the icing on the cake."
The college will include a dedicated sixth form centre, plus space for vocational training. Other features include a sports hall, nursery, library and learning centre with the latest IT and a high quality eating hall.
College director Andy Brown said students would be every bit as important as the building itself.
"Support for students will be an absolute priority. Every individual will know exactly who is looking after them and exactly what has to be done in order to succeed."
The new college will retain Sheffield College's status as the sole provider of post-16 education in north Sheffield, where traditional sixth forms were abolished in 1988.