Lowbrook Academy rejects latest Royal Borough expansion offer

Grace Witherden

Reporter:

Grace Witherden

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Thirty children will miss out on a place at Lowbrook Academy this September after the school rejected the Royal Borough’s latest offer to help it expand.

Last month, the school in The Fairway, Cox Green, told parents it would only be able to take 30 pupils in September’s intake, instead of 60, due to a funding shortfall of £750,000.

The Royal Borough, which asked the academy to expand to two-form entry last year, made several offers, the latest one involving a £225,000 loan to the school.

Today (Wednesday), Dominique Du Pré, chairman of Lowbrook’s governors, sent a letter to Kevin McDaniel, head of schools and education services at the council, saying the school would not accept the offer.

She said: “It remains the school’s ambition to become a two-form entry school. However, to do so, we must not compromise the existing education of our pupils by taking on a substantial loan.”

The original expansion plans were split into two phases, with phase one including the remodelling of an internal space to create a temporary classroom and the construction of a new permanent classroom.

Phase two involved four new classrooms and a 300sqm new hall.

The council said the decision to include the 300sqm hall had put ‘financial pressure’ on the scheme, and it would only support a hall of 167sqm and offered to loan the school £750,000, which the school refused.

A second offer was then made to offer the school a loan of £225,000.

Ms Du Pré said the offer was ‘unanimously’ refused and the school had made it clear from the outset it would only expand if the whole school could continue to meet together in the new hall.

She said the school was under the impression the scheme would be agreed and fully funded by the borough.

“The school was led to believe that the funding shortfall had been allocated in this year’s budget and that it would be formalised at cabinet last month, as stipulated in your letter dated March 8, 2017,” she wrote.

“This was not the case and therefore this is the overriding reason we are unable to admit 60 pupils this year and formally increase our PAN (Pupil Admission Numbers) permanently.”

David Rooney, executive principal at the school, told the Advertiser last month that 22 children in the catchment and nine siblings will miss out if the school did not take 60.

A sought-after school, Lowbrook received 219 preference choices for just 30 places.

On National Offer Day on Tuesday the borough said a number of schools were oversubscribed, including Lowbrook, and leader of the council Simon Dudley urged parents to stay on the waiting list.

Cllr Simon Dudley, leader of the council, said: "This is a disappointing outcome. We worked tirelessly to try and expand the school but sadly between us we were unsuccessful."

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  • craig

    00:12, 26 April 2017

    The level of underhand Politics, avoiding constituents, abusing Powers and breaching laws in an attempt to silence those affected is astounding. The facts that prove that this build was signed off by Mr McDaniel and the documents that prove that publicly is plain to see. Yet despite a statement from Cllr members that if proven to be the case they will build with no issue, we are still here. It's like watching a real life version of 'in the thick of it' just with a bunch of people who know less about politics and have worse acting skills. It would be side splitting if it wasn't so serious for the children of Cox Green. CRAZY!

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  • Carlyb

    23:11, 25 April 2017

    encourage anyone to look at the recent Twitter history using handle #LA60PAN to see the proof of the funding from last year. certain members of the council crowd are solely about feathering their own nest; a revelation about which I'm saddened and shocked by. The facts are all there yet still the spin. Let's hope the few good apples can help us now.

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  • 1yahya

    13:01, 25 April 2017

    Firstly, we just did not assume that Lowbrook has to take siblings no matter what. 1. RBWM agreed with expansion plan 2. RBWM uturned last minute. RBWM has non-existent opposition. So, you can't blame them (opposition). It's down to egoistic and self-mighty mentality of certain individuals who think they are not answerable. 3. 22 Catchment children are not offered their first preference Lowbrook.

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