05:06PM, Wednesday 19 April 2017
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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