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YEARS AHEAD: £8.5M for school reforms

YEARS AHEAD: £8.5M for school reforms

Wadham School In Crewkerne, Image: LDRS

Up to £8.5M will be spent on reforming schools in the Crewkerne and Ilminster area in the years ahead.

Somerset County Council announced in March that it would push forward with reforms to schools in the Crewkerne and Ilminster area, converting the existing three-tier structure (comprising infant or junior, middle and upper schools) into the more widespread two-tier system (primary and secondary).

The council hopes the decision would be implemented in time for the September 2022 intake – despite significant opposition from local parents and an upcoming judicial review.

To this end, the council has committed millions of pounds towards improving the existing school buildings and planning for the future needs of pupils.

The council wishes to implement the following changes by September 2022:

  • Wadham School in Crewkerne will change from an upper school with 460 pupils to a secondary school with around 780 pupils
  • Swanmead Community School and Greenflyde Church of England First School in Ilminster will amalgamate into a single Church of England primary school on two separate sites. A new joint site may be constructed in the future to replace them, but this depends on housing developments being delivered
  • Merriott First School and Haselbury Pluckett Church of England First School will both become primary schools. Hinton St George Church of England Primary School has already made in this transition but is being considered as part of the consultation to ensure all schools have “sustainable” pupil numbers
  • Ashlands Church of England First School, St Bartholomew’s Church of England First School and Maiden Beech Academy (a middle school) would form three new primary schools
  • Misterton Church of England First School, which is currently federated with Ashlands, will close in the summer of 2022. All existing pupils will be transferred to another school of their choice in the Crewkerne area, while the building could be re-purposed for community use

Of the £8.5M provisionally allocated in the council’s budget (which was approved by the full council in February), around £5M will be invested in making repairs and other improvements to the existing schools.

A further £1.5M has been allocated to “meet the initial costs of change”, including any extensive work needed to implement the merger of Swanmead and Greenfylde.

The remaining £2M is earmarked for “future works delivering the long-term transformation” of the schools – including any additional classrooms that may be needed in the future.

The council said this latter elements would be “subject to growth in pupil numbers and associated plans, which may attract investment from developers.”

This could include the delivery of a new primary school within the stalled Canal Way site in Ilminster, where Persimmon Homes wishes to deliver up to 400 houses.

Mike Keal, the council’s programme manager for schools and early years, said: “Our vision is for all Somerset children and young people to be safe, healthy, happy, ambitious and successful.

“A high-quality education can only be sustained in a school that has the financial means to provide excellent curriculum and teaching.

“We will work with each school to identify alternative short-term solutions, should this programme of work not be completed on time.”

The judicial review into the reforms will be heard at Cardiff Crown Court on October 14-15. The council has declined to comment at this stage of the legal proceedings.

 

Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter


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