09:40AM, Thursday 06 April 2017
Future plans at an over-subscribed primary school are in doubt after a shortfall in funding has left it unable to expand.
Lowbrook Academy in Cox Green told parents on Wednesday, March 29 the school would only be able to take 30 pupils next year, instead of 60, due to a shortfall of £750,000.
The Royal Borough asked the school to expand to a two-form entry school last year after a number of children in the catchment missed out on a place. And in May the council agreed to provide £1.6m and a £200,000 contingency to the project.
The school says it was led to believe additional funding would be allocated as Kevin McDaniel, head of schools and education services, was present in the meetings where it was discussed.
David Rooney, executive principal at the school, said: “We never agreed to the sum of £1.6million and we said at the time it wouldn’t be enough.
“We have had 219 apply for a place this year, and if we don’t accept 60, there will be 22 children in the catchment who will miss out and nine siblings.”
He also said it was unfortunate timing as the school must decide its intake for the next academic year before national offer day on Wednesday, April 19.
The expansion plans were split into two phases, with phase one including the remodeling of an internal space to create a temporary classroom and the construction of a new permanent classroom.
Phase two involves four new classrooms and a 300sqm new hall.
The council said the decision to include the 300sqm hall has put ‘financial pressure’ on the scheme, and it would only support a hall of 167sqm and offered to loan the school £750,000.
The school, which sought an independent financial affordability review, said it was not able to take on the debt as it would be the equivalent of a teacher’s salary per year.
On Monday, the borough sent a new offer to the school which would see the council take on overall financial responsibility for the scheme if Lowbrook Academy contributes £275,000, which the school is considering.
The council states it is prepared to give the academy an interest-free loan over 25 years, which would equate to a repayment of £9,000 a year.
Dominique Du Pre, chairman of governors at the school, said: “I’m pleased to confirm that the parent group with members of the governing body met with Cllr Dudley (Simon Dudley, council leader) on Monday this week. We have also received another offer from the local authority, which we welcome and will formally review when our school business manager and full governing body return from annual leave.”
Cllr Dudley (Con, Maidenhead Riverside) told the Advertiser he was keen to see the expansion of the school.
He said: “I want to get this sorted by Friday. I want to see them expand but we have to be fair to the other schools.”
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