Proposals to expand The Priory School outlined to councillors

The Priory School, Hitchin. Picture: Archant

The Priory School, Hitchin. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Proposals to invest in new facilities to increase the number of places at a Hitchin school have been outlined to councillors.

Currently The Priory School can officially take six new classes of Year 7 pupils each year – equivalent to 180 pupils.

But from September 2023, Hertfordshire County Council want to increase its annual new intake of 11-year-olds to 210.

According to council officials, increasing the intake at the school would require investment in ‘additional accommodation’.

On Wednesday, June 30, the expansion plans were reported to a meeting of the county council’s education, libraries and lifelong learning cabinet panel.

Priory School Hitchin

Priory School Hitchin - Credit: Archant

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Details of the building work – and the cost – were discussed by councillors in private session.

However it was reported to councillors that the design of the buildings would ‘facilitate further expansion in the future, if and when that is required’.

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Councillors endorsed the proposals, which will now be considered by a future meeting of the county council’s cabinet.

At the meeting, head of school planning Pauline Davis told councillors that the school had been "helping out on a temporary basis" with extra places for the past couple of years.

But she said that they now needed permanent accommodation if they were to continue to do this.

Supporting the move, executive member for education, libraries and lifelong learning Cllr Terry Douris said it made "eminently good sense."

“The Priory School is a great school – and it’s a popular school, it really is,” he said.

“So, to actually get this level of ongoing facility in a permanent form has to be good for the school, for the people of Hitchin and the areas that it serves."

He added: "It’s a win-win all the way through.”

Meanwhile Cllr Caroline Clapper – who stressed she was supportive of the proposal – asked how the expansion of the school fitted with the council’s sustainability agenda.

Before pointing to the council’s target to be ‘carbon zero’ by 2030, she said: “From a sustainability perspective our schools are creating the biggest output of carbon emissions out of anything across the county, as I understand – a huge amount of carbon emissions.

“And each time we make a decision like this, we are moving further away from our sustainability aims with regards to the output that we as an authority are creating.”

Cllr Douris accepted that it could be difficult where expansions may be reliant on existing infrastructure such as heating systems of the main school.

He asked that if this was the case could it be designed so that it could more easily be retro-adapted to be carbon zero later.

Head of school planning Kate Leahy said they would make sure that the funding agreement for the project picked up those points – making sure that the new building looked to attain "good sustainability criteria", as well as opportunities to enhance retro-fit.

More widely she said they were looking at how they approached building moving forward – making sure sustainability was being looked at at the outset of projects and that all buildings were "net zero in operation".

Also highlighted was the planned ‘net zero carbon operational’ school under construction in Buntingford.

And Cllr Douris also pointed to the rebuilding of the Valley School, in Stevenage, which he said he understood would also be a "net zero carbon operational" school.

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