Cabinet to consider extra investment for schools

Cabinet to consider extra investment for schools

A report to cabinet sets out a five-year programme of investment to continue improvements to the condition of maintained schools and the expansion of mainstream schools.

Conservative led Wiltshire Council receives annual capital funding from the Department for Education for new places and maintenance of urgent and essential structural works, while day-to-day revenue maintenance is funded from schools delegated budgets.

In 2020, the Wiltshire Council approved an additional £5m of council funding for school maintenance works over a five-year period and an additional £100,000 a year to improve the accessibility of schools, which is ongoing.

The report to cabinet on 1 February will provide updates on current schemes and approval of £4.17m worth of new schemes, subject to planning approval and completed Section 106 agreements.

There will also be details on the schools planned maintenance programme totalling £3m for 2022/23, for approval.

Cllr Laura Mayes, Cabinet Member for Children's Services said:

We have responsibility to ensure there are sufficient school places for all pupils both now and into the future and to ensure, where at all possible, that parents get a place at a preferred school. That is why we have a School Places Strategy, which looks ahead and considers housing, demographics and other factors to ensure we are one step ahead and planning well.

This report provides an update on the stage we are at in that planning. We are investing in classrooms and school buildings, both for now and where we'd want to do so in the future to meet demand. It also shows the maintenance work we need to carry out at schools.

Back in 2020 we also committed an additional £5m of council funding over a five-year period for maintenance works, but in addition £100,000 to help improve accessibility and build ramps and handrails to help our schools be more accessible and we are continuing that commitment.

The strategic planning is reflected in high numbers of families receiving their preferred choice of schools with 99% of Wiltshire children securing a place at one of their three top preferences for secondary or primary schools in 2021.

Where possible, the council secures Section 106 developer contributions and Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) for essential school infrastructure in areas of new housing development, which are usually project or school specific. Most ongoing school capital projects agreed in previous years are either complete or under way. These include replacing accommodation at schools including Stonehenge School in Amesbury, where the entire lower school block will be replaced, and Holbrook Primary School in Trowbridge, where there are plans for the replacement of temporary buildings.

The small number of new projects totalling £4.17m that have been identified as a priority in the last 12 months and require approval and inclusion in the programme include expansion at Mere Primary School to create an additional 105 places and Marlborough St John's for a further 40 places.

by Charlie Monro,