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Tuesday, 14 January 2020 15:01

The 15 Kent and Medway Priority School Building Programmes currently underway, planned or completed

In 2015 Government introduced Phase Two of the Priority School Building Programme, to rebuild or refurbish individual blocks of accommodation at 277 schools using capital grant and are scheduled to hand over by the end of 2023. 13 of these are in Kent and a further two are in Medway. This article looks at progress of the project in the local schools to benefit, which were as follows. Kent Primary schools: Barton Junior; Benenden Church of England Primary; Colliers Green Church of England Primary; & Platt Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary School. Kent secondary schools: The Abbey School; Dover Grammar Boys; The Folkestone School for Girls; Hartsdown Technology College; High Weald Academy; Mayfield Grammar; Pent Valley Technology College; Simon Langton Girls' Grammar; Swadelands. Medway secondary schools: St John Fisher Catholic Comprehensive and The Howard School.

Key words in the project are: ‘using capital grant’, as the previous programme of Building Schools for the Future relied heavily on commercial loans under the now largely discredited Private Finance Initiative. Whilst many schools benefited hugely from this project, the financial implications are crippling, as can be seen in several previous articles on this site, including here, with a full analysis by ShepwayVox here.  In this second phase more schools qualify under ‘a block replacement based on poor condition.  Only in exceptional circumstances will a whole school be replaced’ . At least three of the projects described below appear to come into the ‘exceptional circumstances’ category. At the foot of this article is a list of all the previous successful BSF Schools in Kent.

Please note that the information below, sometimes scarce, is gleaned from a variety of sources and I am happy to receive any additional material or to correct errors and omissions. My thanks to all those who have replied to my requests for information. 

When the Building Schools for the Future scheme was scrapped in 2010, 29 Kent secondary schools lost their improvement plans, including five on the current list. You will find a full list of those that lost out and those which survived the cut here. At least two who lost out: Castle Community College (now Goodwin Academy) and Meopham School, have since been rebuilt under different schemes. Two more: Pent Valley and Walmer Science College, have now closed. 

A consultation about closing one school on the list, Pent Valley Technology College, began in December 2015, although the outcome was inevitable, with the school finally being shut down eighteen months later. It has been replaced by the Turner Free School (TFS) opening on the same site in September 2018, run by the controversial Turner Schools (TS) academy trust, and now to be housed in new premises from a different funding stream. The school was originally planned for an intake of 120 pupils, but thanks to its normal ‘Blessings from on High’ has managed to obtain funding for 180. The main consequence of this is that Folkestone Academy also run by TS now has 91 vacancies in Year Seven, the second highest number in Kent, with TFS also having empty places. Clearly, the DfE has money to burn on favoured schools!

Other Schools: Primary
Barton Junior School, part of the Dover Federation for the Arts Multi Academy Trust, was granted £3.6 million. Although not completely clear from the school website, it appears that the new buildings are now open.

Benenden Primary School (School website appears ‘unsafe’ to visitors at time of writing). The scheme replaces historic Listed buildings around the village green. Completed September 2019 on a site just outside the village boundary. This was originally a KCC project approved in 2012, with plenty of detail on the KCC website, including here. KCC was then awarded the contract to carry out the rebuild, costing some £5.5 million as explained here.

Colliers Green CofE Primary, Cranbrook. A new build is nearly completed as described on the school website.

Platt Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary School, St Mary's Platt, Sevenoaks. Currently waiting to sign off funding as planning is almost complete. The school is hoping for completion in the next twelve months. 

Secondary Schools
The Abbey School, Faversham was previously on the BSF list. The new scheme will take the form of an extension to the current ‘B block’ and will house 8 new classrooms. This will be followed by the demolition of ‘C’ block, an old 1950s ROSLA-style building which is deemed by the ESFA to be beyond repair.  The project is currently on target to commence before Easter. 

Dover Grammar School for Boys is to be completely rebuilt, with the old school demolished and turned into a car park. When I used to visit over forty years ago, taking school chess teams to play, I could not believe the premises, built on the side of a steep hill, with a somewhat Gothic appearance and thought it not fit for purpose even then!  Previously on BSF List

The Folkestone School for Girls has a new six classroom block, replacing old modular buildings.

Hartsdown Technology College. £12.5 million rebuild of part of the premises underway. The school was another which lost out on the 2010 BSF scheme, although it appears to have a greater need than many who were successful. Out of twelve successful Kent schools in the final BSF Wave, four were from Thanet: Charles Dickens; Dane Court Grammar; King Ethelbert and St George's Cofe Foundation. An informative Freedom of Information request here details all the successful BSF schools in the first three rounds, and reproduced below. This controversial school has publicly acknowledged poor premises as one of a number of issues contributing to heavy undersubscription. The headteacher is highly outspoken on the issues around the school, and in the Isle of Thanet News Report notes that: “The design will also reduce bullying as we have been careful to include passive supervision, so there will be no dark corners”.

High Weald Academy. The new academy building, replacing most of premises is now open and is described as one of the most state of the art learning environments in the area. It boasts 69 climate controlled classrooms and offices, which includes eight science laboratories, three art rooms, five ICT suites and the purpose built drama studio. The school is the most undersubscribed in Kent, with an intake in September 2019 of 39% of its Published Admission Number, the lowest in Kent. Third lowest is Hayesbrook School, also run by the same academy trust, Brook Learning Trust. More details here. Given the school’s historic low intake this is surely below what is viable. I looked at the Brook Trust and High Weald in more detail two years ago, the Trust hoping that the new buildings will draw in more students, for if not one can only wonder at what will have been a monumental waste of money. Did not qualify for BSF in 2010, possibly because of its vulnerability.

 Mayfield Grammar School  Appears to have settled for a new science block, funded by KCC. No information from the school in spite of request. 

Pent Valley Technology College Closed, see above

Simon Langton Girls' Grammar School. A complete rebuild costing some £20 million.  The school sensibly offers a Q&A about the new premises on its website which also takes the opportunity to respond after earlier controversy about the design losing the character of the 1950’s design.

Swadelands School (now The Lenham School). Following the Ofsted failure of Swadelands in 2015 the school was taken over as an Academy by Valley Invicta Academies Trust and became The Lenham School. KCC had earlier won the PSBP contract to build a new science block at a cost of some £3 million. 

St John Fisher Catholic Comprehensive School was able to confirm that St. John Fisher is part of the Priority Schools Building Programme and that it remains the intent to address the significant condition need on the Upper School site, with further information in the coming months. 

The Howard School  was awarded £5 million for a new Science and Technology Block. Due to commence construction in the summer of 2019, unfortunately the contractor pulled out. A new contractor has now been appointed, the plan now being to commence construction this summer, with two buildings to be demolished by December 2021.

Successful BSF Schools in the Past
These were all approved before the government realised the extortionate expense of public buildings financed through the Private School Initiative and  cancelled schemes in the pipeline. The first two batches of schools were all academies which meant that the current ongoing costs are met directly by government, not KCC. 
Batch One Academies
Cornwallis Academy (completed 2012); Longfield Academy (2011); Marsh Academy (2012); New Line Learning Academy (2011);  Spires Academy (2012).
Batch Two Academies
Dover Christ Church Academy; Duke of York's Royal Military Academy; The John Wallis Academy; The Knole Academy; St Augustine Academy; Skinners Kent Academy; Wilmington Academy
Wave Three BSF Schools - KCC Maintained Schools and Isle of Sheppey Academy
Charles Dickens School; Community College Whitstable; Dane Court Grammar School; Herne Bay High School; Isle of Sheppey Academy; King Ethelbert School; Northfleet School for Girls; Northfleet Technology College: St George's CofE Foundation, Broadstairs; St John's Catholic Comprehensive; Thamesview School; 


Last modified on Sunday, 23 February 2020 16:04

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