02:30PM, Friday 21 July 2017
The planned expansions of Cox Green School and Newlands Girls’ School led councillors at the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Panel to debate whether academies should receive council funding.
The panel heard a report from Alison Alexander, managing director of RBWM, which set out tender returns for two of the schemes in the secondary schools expansion programme, approved by the council in July last year.
A total of £30m was approved for expansions at six schools: Cox Green, Furze Platt Senior, Windsor Boys’, Windsor Girls’, Dedworth Middle and Charters, to provide 1,380 more secondary school places.
At Cox Green School in Highfield Lane, Maidenhead, 210 extra places will be added, which will provide 30 more places each year – 30 extra on year seven each year – and the expansion will involve adding a block of nine general classrooms, a dining room and remodelled classrooms.
Cabinet is recommended to approve a tender from Dawnus Construction for the sum of £3.6m for Cox Green and £3.3m for Charters School in Ascot, which will also provide an extra 210 places.
The report also recommended the council approves a tender of £769,890, to Contract Trading Services, to add 30 places – six in each year group – at Newlands Girls’ School in Farm Road, Maidenhead.
This money would come from s106 developer contributions and the scheme would create three more teaching spaces.
Cllr John Story (Con, Sunninghill and South Ascot) said there was a ‘phenomenal difference’ in the cost per place at the schools, with it costing £27k per place in Cox Green compared to £11k at The Windsor Boys’ School.
Alison Alexander said this sum varied based on the range of work needed at each site.
Cllr Ed Wilson (Con, Clewer South) said: “At what point are residents going to say, ‘hang on a minute, this is getting to a point where we really can’t sustain this programme’?
“There is capacity at Churchmead (Datchet) and Desborough College.”
Ms Alexander said: “This scheme was based on how many places we will need and it is assumed that every place in Desborough and Churchmead will be full.
“These buildings will not be ready for a couple of years and by the time they’re ready there won’t be spaces in Desborough.”
Cllr Wilson said: “The point I raised was, at what point do we we stop? All of these schools are academies and they’ve come to the Royal Borough for funding.”
Ms Alexander said: “With academies the differentiation is always when we are building and expanding because of growth and our need. It is the local authority’s responsibility and it is widely said the basic need grant from the government is not sufficient to deal with growth, but it is our statutory responsibility to do that and the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) will not fund an academy to grow.”
She said many schools in the borough had applied for funding from the ESFA and had not been successful because there were schools across the country that were worse off.
Cllr Lynne Jones (Ind, Old Windsor) said: “We’ve got to look at the detail a lot more, not just the places, but what the money is actually spent on. Is it needed for the places, or is it just something that would be nice to have but you wouldn’t see in any other school that size?”
The panel recommended cabinet approves the report, which it will discuss on Thursday, July 27 at Maidenhead Town Hall.
The children's services panel met at the town hall on Tuesday.
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