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New hope for building work at schools across East Lancashire
High school headteachers across East Lancashire are being given the chance to revive rebuilding ambitions for their ageing buildings.
County council education chiefs look set to authorise the creation of a £3.5million fund which would back projects aimed at ensuring classrooms and support services were ‘fit for purpose’.
In the past few months the authority’s main focus has been on addressing soaring admissions at primary schools, with plans to extend sites in Nelson, Barnoldswick and Brierfield approved.
But since the axe fell on the Building Schools for the Future programme in July 2010, the opportunities for the secondary school sector have been limited to ‘basic need’ schemes and general issues surrounding the condition of the building stock.
Ten secondary and special schools, and pupil referral units, in Hyndburn, Pendle and Rossendale were due to receive funding from the Department of Education before Michael Gove pulled the plug on BSF.
This placed headteachers and governors in a quandary – and some have since pressed ahead with their own solutions to the dilemma.
For supporters of West Craven Technology College in Barnoldswick, it came in the form of a one-off £6.2million County Hall investment in the 70-year-old Kelbrook Road site.
And a post-16 special school, for older students at Haslingden’s Tor View, is being established at the former Ewood Day Centre.
Minor improvements are also set to be made at Mount Carmel RC High in Accrington if planning permission can be secured from Hyndburn Council for a new entrance lobby and meeting room.
Eddie Mather, the county council’s capital strategy head, said: “In the past couple of years, we've spent over £26million on boilers, electrics and the external structure of schools, so they're warm and weathertight.
"The cabinet member will now consider giving secondary schools the chance to tell us about their ideas for updating the inside of their buildings. This could be labs, classrooms and other areas which have been neglected and where refurbishment would make a real difference to lessons. The aim would be to help as many as we can."
Under the terms of the anticipated new county council fund, governing bodies will be able to bid for plans with a price tag of between £100,000 and £500,000.
Each bid would be assessed by an expert panel over the winter months and a decision announced by county council cabinet member for education, Coun Susie Charles, next March.