£80m schools revamp bid for Wakefield

Five Wakefield schools could be rebuilt or refurbished as part an £80m bid to raise learning standards in the area.

Airedale High School, Knottingley High School, Featherstone Technology College, Freeston Business and Enterprise College and Castleford High School have all been earmarked for redevelopment under the scheme.

The project would be funded by the Government's Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, which aims to upgrade all the country's secondary schools.

The BSF programme is already financing the rebuilding or refitting of 14 high-tech secondary schools in Leeds, and would also bankroll a massive but controversial proposed overhaul of high schools in Kirklees.

Wakefield Council's cabinet has just agreed to submit an expression of interest for funding for five of the district's schools.

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Wakefield councillor Pat Garbutt, cabinet member for children and young people, said: "This funding bid is based around our vision to use BSF investment as a way of driving up educational standards in the district.

"By raising the standard of school buildings, we can raise the aspirations of our young people and their families which will ultimately mean an even brighter future for all concerned."

In a report to cabinet on Tuesday, councillors were told that despite Wakefield's high school pupils achieving better exam results than many neighbouring LEAs, the authority had the highest number of young people aged 16 to 18 who were not in education, training or employment.

Under existing BSF schemes, a new school building, including sports hall, dance theatres and state-of-the-art classrooms, costs about 25m.

It is unlikely all five Wakefield schools would be rebuilt, and the detailed bid is likely to include a mixture of brand new buildings and extensive refurbishment.

Typically, BSF schemes involve private consortiums providing new buildings, which they then own for a contract of about 25 years, providing support services such as catering and maintenance.

The Government has asked all of England's 150 councils to apply for the lastest round of BSF cash, which has been brought forward from 2020 to 2010. Successful bids will be notified in January.

If the five-school bid is given the go-ahead, Wakefield Council intends to bid for extra cash to modernize more schools in the next few years.

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