Fenland schools saved from Government cuts

COUNCIL officers worked into the night to secure the �100 million transformation of Fenland schools and stop the Government axe from falling.

There was jubilation in Shire Hall, Cambridge, today as it became evident the county council’s hard work had paid off in getting contacts signed early so that work could start.

Whilst hundreds of similar Building Schools for the Future projects across Britain were axed by Education Minister Michael Gove, he reprieved those which had gone too far to stop them- and that included the Fenland schools.

County councillor Martin Curtis of Whittlesey and Cabinet member for children, said he was “really chuffed” the Fenland schools had escaped the axe.

“This is nothing but good news,” he said. “Whilst I have always said the process of BSF was inefficient, at the time it was the only game on the table. We have always had a good reputation in Cambridgeshire for working with people and that’s paid off this time.”

He said officers had worked all hours to get the contracts signed which will secure the re-development of Thomas Clarkson Community College, Wisbech; Neale Wade Community College, March; Sir Harry Smith Community College, Whittlesey and the Cromwell Community College, Chatteris.

Meadowgate special school and the Pupil Referral Unit in March will also be modernised.

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Alan Kippax, project director, said this team “were trying to make sure we were as close as possible to this prize and it concentrated minds wonderfully”.

He said the last Government had offered the prospect of a major investment in schools and Cambridgeshire had pushed to be as early as they could in the overall national progress,

“Having got out foot in the door, it was all about going through to the end process,” he said.

The authority signed for a contract for the educational partnership to deliver improvements to all six schools, and signed specific contracts to start work on Neale Wade and Thomas Clarkson. The county also offered �3 million capital contribution; there will be �400,000 from Fenland District Council, too, to increase community options at the Thomas Clarkson site.

But whilst Mr Kippax described the news for Fenland as a great boost “what it means for the rest of the county’s schools is a bleak day with no prospect of BSF to fund any improvements.”

Earlier this year the county appointed an �80,000 a year ‘super head’ to ensure high standards in all six BSF Fenland schools and to support “the transformational potential of BSF is achieved and sustained”.

In a report which paved the way for the �100 million project, Fenland schools were described as being undersized with inflexible classroom spaces, inadequate heating and ventilation, poor staff accommodation, and poor access.

Education chiefs also hope the improvements to Fenland schools will increase from 75 per cent to 83 per cent the numbers of post 16s who stay on in full time education.