09:46AM, Thursday 30 March 2017
An over-subscribed primary school has told parents it will not be able to expand next year due to a shortfall in funding.
Parents have been informed Lowbrook Academy will only be able to offer 30 places next year, instead of 60.
A statement on its website says the popular school in The Fairway will not be able to proceed with Phase II of its expansion plan due to a shortfall of funding of £750k.
Phase I included remodelling an internal space to create a temporary classroom and a new permanent classroom, and Phase II involved creating a new hall and four classrooms
The statement says: “In conjunction with the local authority, an expansion scheme was put together, worked upon and progressed to the planning phases.
“However, the initial funding of £1.6 million unfortunately, as predicted, fell well below the amount required to deliver the agreed scheme.
“After further negotiations, the local authority has subsequently offered to loan the academy the shortfall amount.
“However, after careful consideration and an independent financial affordability review we are not able to take on this debt and progress this scheme in this manner.
“Key milestones for completing Phase II and the financial restraints mentioned above now make it untenable to deliver this scheme at this current time.”
UPDATE Thursday, March 30, 4.11pm:
The leader of the council Simon Dudley (Con, Riverside) has said the borough remains ‘keen to expand Lowbrook Academy’ but the funding must be ‘appropriate and proportionate’ to other schools in the borough.
In May, the council agreed to provide £1.6m to add four classrooms, a staff room, additional hall space and support for remodelling which allowed the school to take 60 pupils in September 2016
In a letter, dated yesterday (Wednesday), from Kevin McDaniel, head of schools and educational services, to Dominic Du Pre, chairman of governors at Lowbrook Academy, was published on the borough's website today.
In the letter, Mr McDaniel states the school's decision to include a 300m² hall has put ‘financial pressure’ on the project, which now has an estimated cost of £2.35m.
He states: “We understand that the Academy believe that a single hall of 300m² is necessary to accommodate all of the pupils in one space and allow the school to continue to achieve the highest levels of attainment and retain its Ofsted judgement of Outstanding. These facilities are desired by all schools but not present in any primary schools in the Borough.
"The council has a duty to ensure that local resources, in this case capital money, are appropriately allocated.”
He says the council is prepared to loan the shortfall for the hall, and if this fails the second suggestion is to increase the contribution by £200k. This would leave a shortfall of £500k, after taking into account the Academy’s commitment of £50k.
Cllr Simon Dudley said: “"The Royal Borough remains keen to expand Lowbrook Academy by an additional 120 places and is in ongoing discussions with its governors and parents. However, there are 56 primary and middle schools in the Borough and facilities and funding for the school must be appropriate and proportionate to those enjoyed by our other fantastic local schools and their pupils."
Visit www.rbwm.gov.uk to read the full letter.
UPDATE Friday, March 31, 3pm
Lowbrook Academy have responded to the borough's letter to say they are in 'disagreement' with the council over the facts of the actual amount of funding agreed.
Read the letter here
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