Almost £30m to be spent on extra school places in Royal Borough

Grace Witherden


Nearly £30 million could be spent by the council to provide 1,244 new secondary school places in the Royal Borough – almost 50 per cent more cash than previously planned.

A paper on the expansion of secondary schools was discussed at the children’s services overview and scrutiny panel on Tuesday, before the issue goes before the council cabinet next week.

The panel recommended up to £29.6m be spent to provide 1,244 places across all year groups in six schools including Cox Green, Furze Platt Senior, Charters, Dedworth Middle, The Windsor Boys’ and Windsor Girls’.

Some of these places would be available by September 2017.

An expansion programme costing £20.5m was approved in September by the council.

But the report states the programme is now ‘only affordable if the council invests capital of £11.3m to £14.3m, which would include an education dividend from the redevelopment of Maidenhead Golf Club.

The proposals would add capacity to schools by providing teaching and facilities.

Reasons given for the ‘revised’ cost include a ‘rise in building costs’, and previous costs being based on ‘desktop assessments’.

During the meeting, members expressed concern taxpayers’ money was being spent on academy schools, which the borough has no control over.

Cllr Edward Wilson (Con, Clewer South) said: “This is public money, that is why it’s so important it’s scrutinised. Particularly when we’re talking about academy schools, where we have no real control over what they do in the future.

“This is £30m. I accept some will be funded by the golf course sale, but we need to be clear what we need to look at and what we’re doing. My concern is that in some cases we are acting in haste.”

Council managing director Alison Alexander, explained the schools were unable to go to the Department for Education for funding for expansion and basic need due to ‘statutory rules laid out in the changes of education establishments’.

A total of £4.5m would be spent on Furze Platt School to provide 30 extra places a year and £4.7m on Cox Green School for 30 places a year.

Cllr Natasha Airey (Con, Park), cabinet member for children’s services, told the meeting: “This has been months of negotiation and we’ve a done huge amount of work with schools.

“The reason this paper is coming back to cabinet is because it was approved for up to £20m, it’s only coming back because we’re going to spend more, not because we need to discuss what schools to expand and the need for places.”

The panel also recommended further negotiations take place between the council, Cox Green and Furze Platt which would see one of them take an extra 30 places in addition to the original 30.

The report on the extra funding will be discussed by the council cabinet on Thursday, July 28 at the town hall at 7.30pm.

The school expansion report was criticised for comparing the average cost per place of £23,817 ‘to £10k per place approved for Holyport College in 2015’.

Cllr Lynne Jones (Ind, Old Windsor) said: “That is a political point. The wording of it has got nothing to do with the report. It should be the national average.”

But council managing director Alison Alexander said it had been included to put the cost into context.

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