Getting BSF back on track

SIR - As reported in The Comet on June 19 ( Rethink over school move ), Hertfordshire County Council s plan to move the Thomas Alleyne School to Great Ashby nearly came unstuck last January. At the time, HCC feared that it would not be able to overcome pl

SIR - As reported in The Comet on June 19 ('Rethink over school move'), Hertfordshire County Council's plan to move the Thomas Alleyne School to Great Ashby nearly came unstuck last January. At the time, HCC feared that it would not be able to overcome planning issues at the Great Ashby site.

We have always been sympathetic to the fact that HCC has to meet deadlines when bidding for Building Schools for the Future (BSF) money. With £210 million in BSF investment in Stevenage's secondary schools at stake, the last thing anyone wanted was for the bid to get bogged down at planning stage. But, leaving the move to Great Ashby out of the deal would have undercut our ability to make the most of this once in a generation funding opportunity.

When we were warned about this last January, by concerned head teachers and through Councillor Taylor finding out about the change of heart in HCC Cabinet papers, it was clear to us that HCC needed help, and fast. As the MP for Stevenage, I immediately urged the government minister in charge of BSF, Jim Knight MP, to shift the application deadline. I also arranged for him to meet with the Leader of Stevenage Borough Council (SBC), Cllr Sharon Taylor, and the Leader of HCC, Cllr Robert Gordon. The result was the very welcome U-turn reported in The Comet last month - Thomas Alleyne is set to move to a brand new site in Great Ashby. On top of this, SBC was successful in its bid to get a place on the board overseeing BSF in Hertfordshire. Our town's interests are now, at last, directly represented.

Thankfully, BSF now looks back on track in Stevenage. But, it was an unnecessarily close-run thing. The trouble in January is a reminder to everyone elected to represent Stevenage and Hertfordshire that, regardless of party politics, we need to work together to make BSF the success it can be. Only then will our children and grandchildren get the first-class education that they deserve.


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BARBARA FOLLETT

MP for Stevenage

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SHARON TAYLOR

Leader of Stevenage

Borough Council

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