£8.4m boost for north Leeds school expansions – but supply chain issues are causing costs to spiral

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Multi-million-pound plans to expand two schools in north Leeds are set to go before council decision-makers this week.

Leeds City Council officers will seek permission from the authority’s executive board this week to spend £8.4m on expansions to Allerton High and Boston Spa St. Edwards schools, to help them expand by hundreds places in the coming years.

Due to laws passed by the Government in 2011, councils are not legally allowed to open new local education authority-run schools, and must instead either expand existing schools, or encourage a private company or trust to open a “free” school.

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A report into the Allerton High project has claimed Covid-19 and supply chain issues have seen costs for the expansion rise from an estimated £8m, agreed in September 2021, to £8.5m.

Allerton High School has been given approval by council planners to expand.Allerton High School has been given approval by council planners to expand.
Allerton High School has been given approval by council planners to expand.

A £1.2m payment was already paid to go towards early works on site, due to the urgency of the work, and the remaining funds are expected to be agreed this week.

It is hoped that the school’s capacity will be increased by around 300 pupils in time for the beginning of the September 2023 school term.

Another £1.1m has been requested to increase numbers at Boston Spa St. Edwards school for a “20 to 30 place expansion”.

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The report states: “Notwithstanding the successful delivery of the Learning Places Programme over the last 12- 18 months, the programme has not been without its challenges.

“The impact of Covid from March 2020 for the delivery of places for September 2020 was inevitably a factor, minimising face to face time for scheme development and the management of on-site issues, which was generally well-managed and the impact mitigated on the whole.

“However, its longer-term impact and issues that are specific to the delivery of school places, have been more prevalent for the September 2021 delivery and beyond.”

It listed further problems such as short timescales, the availability of contractors to do the work; supply chain issues around materials such as timber, steel, plaster and fire doors; and “slips” in planned connection dates for power and water.

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The report added that further Government cuts to per-pupil funding rate, coupled with increasing demand for SEND education, was also putting financial pressure on the local education authority.

Members of Leeds City Council’s executive board will meet on Wednesday, November 17 to discuss the report.

Richard Beecham , Local Democracy Reporting Service