Education: Doubt over school’s future

THERE was another twist in the tale of the Thomas Alleyne School on Monday as a decision about its future was postponed. Councillors attending Hertfordshire County Council s Cabinet meeting had been told by council officers that their preferred option to

THERE was another twist in the tale of the Thomas Alleyne School on Monday as a decision about its future was postponed.

Councillors attending Hertfordshire County Council's Cabinet meeting had been told by council officers that their preferred option to relocate the school to the north of Stevenage as part of its £145m Building Schools for the Future (BSF) project was no longer possible.

The plans were too expensive, officers said, and several planning issues - including the redirecting of public footpaths away from the proposed site near Tilekiln Farm - would not be resolved before the council has to send its business plan to Government in mid-March in the hope of securing the money.

Instead, council officers said the school should remain and be expanded on its current location on the High Street as this would save the council £15.5m.

Councillors disagreed and said they should put the BSF on hold for the time being while officers lobby the Government and its agency Partnership for Schools, the national body behind BSF, to try to secure more time to resolve planning issues to the north of the town.

The council's executive member for education and culture Keith Emsall said that although the council believes relocation is the best option, and it will do all it can to try to make this happen, it might not be possible.

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Cllr Emsall said: "Unfortunately the complications around the acquisition of the site and obtaining planning consent just cannot be resolved by mid-March.

"Officers have advised that we are faced with the reality that if we do not abandon the Great Ashby site and agree to expand and remodel The Thomas Alleyne School on its present site instead, then all the Stevenage schools will lose out.

"However, Cabinet has decided that we should try once again to persuade Partnerships for Schools to be more helpful.” County councillor David Billing, Labour’s spokesman on education, attended Monday’s meeting and said afterwards: “What we have got is a concession and a bit of a U-turn with the council not pressing ahead with this half-baked solution of keeping Alleyne on its current site and extending Barclays next door. “If everything stays as it is at the moment with no development in Great Ashby then all the people in Stevenage will have got is the closure of one good school and no hope of another really good building being built.” The deputy leader of Stevenage Borough Council John Gardner said he was happy that the county council was approaching the Government, but was not optimistic that the new school building would go ahead. Cllr Gardner said: “We are pleased they have given pause for consideration, but if we end up in the same place in six weeks we would not be pleased. “I think they should approach the Government and ask them if the BSF programme can be phased so that the council could begin work in the south of the town and then while doing that they could work on the issues to the school to the north. “The danger at the moment is that this has been turned into a building programme rather than an educational one.”

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