Sneyd Green pupils fall victim to £500k blackhole
SCHOOL governors today claimed they could be forced to divert money away from pupils' education to pay for a £500,000 shortfall for work on their school building.
Students and staff at Holden Lane High, in Sneyd Green, are set to move into their new £10.9 million building at the end of this year.
It is the 18th out of 19 schools to benefit from Stoke-on-Trent City Council's £261 million Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme.
But there is not enough cash left to refurbish the remaining 1990s teaching block and the school has now been advised to take out a loan instead.
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The row has erupted just as Holden Lane could also lose its swimming pool on the back of grant funding changes.
It would affect not only Holden Lane's students, but hundreds of primary pupils who use the pool every week and could be forced to travel further afield for swimming.
Debra Gratton, chairman of governors at Holden Lane High, today accused the local authority of short-changing students.
She said: "I have a legal duty of care to ensure they get a fair deal. No other school in the city is being forced to pay for part of their BSF work. Where are we supposed to find the extra funding? No school can afford to find at least £500,000.
"Teachers are doing a really good job at the school. But that's despite what's going on with the building."
Holden Lane was allocated £8 million through the Government-funded BSF scheme and was originally due to be simply refurbished.
But the cost of removing asbestos became so expensive that the plans were changed to include rebuilding the main part of the school.
The extra money to cover this was expected to come from the council's £21 million contingency fund for BSF. By last year, only £2.9 million was left in this pot.
At one point, it even looked like several classrooms would have to be left empty and unfinished at Holden Lane.
Work on the remaining school block was due to include redecoration, creating an art studio, dance facilities and an area for special educational needs support. School governor Andy Lilley, who is also a city councillor for the area, said: "We've got serious concerns and we want answers.
"Ultimately, it's going to be the future pupils that suffer. That's not acceptable."
Tracy Penrose-Gould, project director for BSF, stressed the brand new building will be completed.
She said: "What they won't have is the refurbishment work on the 1990s block to give it a completely new feel."
She claimed Holden Lane had never been promised money for this extra work, adding: "We have treated them very fairly.
"We are supporting the school in trying to make the case for additional funding to realise their long-term vision."