Cumbria County Council has submitted a bid to the Government which could transform secondary education in West Cumbria by pumping in millions of pounds of investment in the schools which need it most.
The council's submission for funding as part of Wave 7 of the Government's Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme has identified West Cumbria as the area in the county with the greatest immediate need for investment in school buildings and infrastructure.
The bid, which has now been submitted to the Department of Children, Schools and Families, asks for £80m to be spent on improving four existing schools in West Cumbria and delivering a brand new school in Workington as part of phase one of BSF.
Cumbria County Council's submission, which is a broad roadmap rather than a detailed submission of exact plans, recommends the following first phase of work should be accelerated into Wave 7 of BSF:
- Workington should have a brand new school to house pupils currently at Southfield Technology College and Stainburn School & Science College.
- Netherhall School, Whitehaven School, Mayfield School and Millom School should all be improved by rebuilding or remodelling the existing infrastructure.
Details on exactly how the money would be spent, where a new school could be sited, and how any building work would fit in around the needs of existing pupils, will all be developed once it's clear whether the bid has been successful or not. Schools, local communities and key stakeholders will all be crucial in helping to develop the broad plans into workable, practical projects and proper consultation will take place before any firm decisions are made.
Cumbria County Council has submitted the proposal after all 150 local authorities in England were asked by the Government in September to identify schools most in need of immediate investment. The Government is expected to decide in spring 2009 which schools will be accelerated into wave 7 of the BSF programme.
After the last wave of BSF bids were invited (in 2003) Cumbria was told that it was not a priority area and investment would not happen until 2015. This time the county council believes it has a very strong case for funding to be accelerated initially into West Cumbria.
Cllr Anne Burns, Cumbria County Council's Cabinet member responsible for children's services, said:
"Building Schools for the Future is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rebuild our secondary schools so they can deliver the education our pupils need and deserve. This is a potential multi-million pound investment in our children’s future - but it's not just about replacing old buildings with new ones, it's about completely transforming our schools and the role they play in local communities.
"The case for investment in West Cumbria is a very strong one - buildings which struggle to meet modern requirements, falling pupil numbers and in some areas levels of attainment which aren't where we want them to be. Even outside the Building Schools for the Future programme, we have been lobbying hard through Britain's Energy Coast for extra cash for the area's schools and will continue to do so regardless of the outcome of this bid.
"The good news for schools in West Cumbria is that we're aware of their needs and we're fighting hard for the funding needed to address them. The good news for schools not included in phase one is that, if we're successful, then hundreds of millions of pounds could be released to invest in other schools in other parts of the county. We'll be working closely with all our schools to see where that money would be best spent once it's clear whether we've been successful."
"No firm decisions have been taken on any of these broad-brush proposals. In the future, if and when these plans have any impact on any individual schools, there will of course be a full and proper public consultation. We’ll also be seeking people’s views before drawing up any firm plans so that everyone can have a say in shaping the future of education."
If the bid for wave 7 of BSF funding is successful, then other schools in the county would benefit from follow-up funding, with up to £100m being released into each of the five school cluster areas of West Cumbria, Furness, South Lakes, Eden and Carlisle.
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