Calderdale school replacement hopes are dashed

HOPES of securing Government cash to rebuild two Calderdale secondary schools have been dashed.

The Department for Education has decided that it cannot find upwards of £24 million to replace Calder High and Todmorden High, or Moorside Primary, at Ovenden, Halifax.

Calderdale Council’s education spokeswoman, Coun Megan Swift, described the decision as “mystfying”.

“We are being forced to throw good money after bad in maintaining these schools but we will continue to ensure the safety of the pupils.”

In 2002, the Government announced its intention to replace or refurbish every secondary school in the country and in 2003, Calderdale Council sent an expression of interest which also stressed the need to replace North Halifax Grammar, Holy Trinity Senior and St Catherine’s Catholic High, which are all at Holmfield, Halifax.

Up to £145 million would have been needed to rebuild these and restore seven other secondary schools.

Over the years, several high ranking Ministers visited Todmorden High School and agreed that the crumbling 1960s building had to be replaced.

Calder Valley Conservative MP Craig Whittaker and his predecessor, Labour’s Chris McCafferty, were fully behind the idea.

Only two weeks ago, Mr Whittaker raised the matter at Prime Minister’s Questions and he told David Cameron that it was vital to replace the schools.

Mr Whittaker was unavailable for comment but a spokesman said he was “extrememly disappointed” at the latest rejection.

Calder High, at Mytholmroyd, has meanwhile received a national Artsmark award recognising it as one of the best centres in the country for developing the musician, performers and artists of the future.

The government has announced 261 schools in England out of 587 who applied will receive money from the Priority School Building Programme, aimed at rebuilding the most dilapidated schools.

The scheme replaces Labour’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, which was controversially cancelled by the Education Secretary Michael Gove.

When he visited Calder High in November 2009 as the shadow secretary, he said: “This is one of the worst schools I have seen in terms of fabric.”

As Secretary of State, he set up a review of all school building plans and set aside a £2bn budget over five years.

In a written statement to the House of Commons, Mr Gove said 42 schools were being prioritised because they were in greatest need. These were those in the worst condition or special schools, he said.

“I recognise that many of the schools that applied and have been unsuccessful will also have significant condition needs.”

Four schools in Bradford and three in Kirklees, are to receive funding.

Halifax Labour MP Linda Riordan said “I feel sorry for the young people who will now miss out educationally because of this short-sighted decision.

“Moorside has waited years for their new build and everyone involved in the school has now been let down in a monumental way.

“The Government seems too busy imposing academies on local communities and has forgotten where its priorities should be for improving children’s education. They built up Moorside’s hopes but have now failed to build a new school, and that is unforgivable,” she said.

Councillor Simon Young (Lab, Luddenden Foot) said: “I am deeply angered that Calder High was not included in the programme. Mr Gove claims that the schools which were succesful were those with the greatest need, however, when he visited Calder High, he said that it was one of the worst examples he had seen.”

The school was designed for 800 students and now copes with 1,300.

“It is no longer fit for purpose,” said Coun Young.

Calderdale NUT spokeswoman Sue McMahon said: “It is a disgrace that schools which are achieving - whilst facing atrocious working and learning conditions - are let down by this Government regarding new build.

“The Government says that new build is according to need, this does not explain why three Calderdale schools that are crumbling - Todmorden High, Calder High and Moorside Primary – and in such a poor state have not been made a priority; yet again this Government fail our schools.”

The areas getting the highest numbers of applications approved included Nottinghamshire with 15 projects and Kent with 14.

Devon had 10 schemes approved and Derby eight.

Birmingham had made 16 applications; six were approved. Sandwell had made 18 applications; three were approved.