Lancashire's school rebuilding programme reaches next stage

Lancashire County Council has agreed how it will work with the Department for Education (DfE) to support the rebuilding of five schools whose existing facilities are set to be wholly or largely replaced.

Friday, 3rd September 2021, 8:28 am
Updated Friday, 3rd September 2021, 9:50 pm

Three schools – Lytham St Anne’s High School, Tarleton Academy and Whitworth Community High School in Rossendale – will be amongst the first to see construction work carried out under the government’s school rebuilding programme, which is designed to upgrade educational facilities in England.

Projects in the first phase of the scheme – for which £1bn has been allocated across 50 sites – are expected to be completed within five years, although some, including those in Lancashire, are likely to be ready much sooner.

A further two schools – Seven Stars Primary School in Leyland and All Saints’ Roman Catholic High School in Rossendale – will fall into a second round of schemes, bringing to the total number of rebuilds so far planned across the country to 100. No funding announcement has been made or timetable set for the later projects.

Five Lancashire schools are set to be rebuilt in the coming years

The facilities earmarked for a revamp have been prioritised either because their buildings are of a specific construction type that requires replacement or because their condition has placed them in the highest category of need for attention.

The list of schools was first published by ministers earlier this year – and now Lancashire County Council’s cabinet has authorised senior directors at the authority to “negotiate and enter [into] any agreements deemed necessary to support the effective delivery of the programme and protect the interests of the county council”. County Hall will also continue to advise the DfE on the “scope and scale of proposals” for the Lancashire schools benefiting from the programme, as well as support school leadership teams where necessary.

Papers presented to cabinet members state that “the implications” for the county council are greatest in relation to the two schools on the list which it currently maintains – Whitworth Community High and Seven Stars Primary. Lytham St Anne’s High is a foundation trust school, Tarleton Academy is operated by the Endeavour Multi-Academy Trust and All Saints’ High is part of the Romero Catholic Academy Trust.

County Hall leader Phillippa Williamson said that it was “good to see some investment coming into the fabric of our schools”.

Labour opposition group leader Azhar Ali also welcomed the funding, but questioned why a review of school place capacity at Whitworth Community High could not have been done “all in one go”.

“There are a lot of children from Rochdale that actually go to Whitworth [school] and some of the kids [in the vicinity of] Whitworth actually don’t get to go [there] – maybe it was a missed opportunity [and] additional capacity could have been built in for future-proofing education in the Whitworth area,” said County Cllr Ali, reflecting concerns that he said had been raised by borough councillors and residents.

Speaking before Thursday’s meeting, Whitworth Community High headteacher Gill Middlemass said: “We are delighted to be one of the first 12 schools in the national pilot of the DfE school rebuilding programme and are very much looking forward to work commencing in earnest on our new school building.

“Our current Laingspan building [design] from the 1960s will be replaced by a modern, modular design which will not only meet the needs of our school community but will complement the natural environment in visual and aesthetic terms. It will be a light and airy, green-roofed, net carbon zero construction with enhanced facilities and accessibility – a building which will reflect our students’ ambitions and our school’s aspirations of ‘climbing higher’.’’

The current school accommodation at Whitworth will be replaced with a two and three-storey L-shaped block, constructed adjacent to the current buildings – although the sports hall block will remain. Building work will take place in such a way that pupils will not need to move into temporary classrooms.

The new building will be ready to be occupied from January 2023, at which point the remaining phases of demolition and landscaping will be completed. The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands that the DfE and contractors are confident that accessibility issues at the Hall Fold site can be overcome.

Lytham St. Annes High School, Tarleton Academy, Seven Stars Primary School and All Saints’ Roman Catholic High School were all approached for comment ahead of the cabinet meeting.

After being revealed as one of the beneficiaries of the schools rebuilding initiative earlier this year, Lytham St. Annes High submitted a planning application to Fylde Council – which was approved last month – to build a new two-storey teaching block and sports centre ahead of the demolition of existing buildings at its Worsley Road site. There will be no increase in the size of the pupil roll, which will remain at 1,650.

Tarleton Academy also plans to demolish most of its current buildings – with the exception of the two-storey Ribble Building and sports hall – when its new facilities are completed, expected to be in September 2023.

New classrooms, science labs, dining space, swimming pool hall and main hall – as well as a new multi-use games area – will all be created at the school’s Hesketh Lane base.

The government has said that it intends to complete 500 schemes under the schools rebuilding initiative over the course of the next decade. It is currently consulting on the criteria by which schools should be assessed to qualify for subsequent phases of the programme.