Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Politics: Crumbling schools could benefit from new scheme

Dilapidated schools in Calderdale could finally receive new buildings from next year as the Government bring forward their Priority School Building Programme.

Calder High and Todmorden High are both in urgent need of repair and it is hoped that these schools will be given top priority when the funds are released.

In 2009 Education Secretary Michael Gove visited Calder High as being among the worst condition schools he had visited.

Under the old Building Schools for the Future system, the need to rebuild schools was judged by criteria which included exam results and social deprivation, meaning that Calder High and Todmoden High never qualified for the criteria.

Under the new system every school in England has been surveyed, with priority for building new schools being given to those in the worst state of dilapidation and the highest demand for school places.

Conservative MP for Calder Valley Craig Whittaker said: “We know that schools like Calder High and Todmorden are in a bad state of dilapidation and depending on where these schools rank on the national list depends on whether these schools are in with a shout.

“It will be the most dilapidated schools in England that are dealt with first - I don’t know where Calder and Todmorden will be on the list, as the list hasn’t been published yet.

“It’s a huge priority for the Calder Valley, and has been for some years, so the more pressure we can put on the government the better.”

Councillor Megan Swift (Lab, Town) has welcomed the announcement but is worried that local schools will miss out on the funding.

She said: “The challenge this time is to make sure the Government delivers the investment we need for local children.

“The experience of the past decade has been that however well a school is performing, replacing poor classrooms with modern facilities does help to raise standards and inspire our young people to do even better.

“There’s been enough talk and enough promises made – now it’s time for the Government to deliver for both Calder High and Todmorden.”

Calderdale Council are currently putting together an application to the Government to rebuild the school buildings in the worst state of dilapidation.

Andrew Whitaker, headteacher.of Todmorden High, said: “As the community will be aware, the local authority has already made a commitment to invest £5m in our school this financial year which allow us to complete the first phase of the redevelopment that our school needs.

“This shows that the local authority are committed to ensuring that the Todmorden community has a truly outstanding school that our young people so richly deserve.

“Although this will make a significant impact on the quality of facilities we have at the school, it is now time for the Government to invest to ensure that our young people have a building that reflects their incredible efforts.”

Anthony Guise, headteacher of Calder High said: “We’re hoping for one of two things.

“Either the possibility of a full rebuild - which will always be the dream for a school in our current situation.

“Or, on a more realistic front, we are looking at major investment to build a new yeaching block at the back of the school to replace some classrooms that are in my opinion coming to the end of their lifespan.

“Ultimately the students at Calder High deserve a brand new building that reflects the new approach that we’ve got here.”

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