|Top of the class: Multimillion pound boost for Wigan Borough schools
Leader of Wigan Council, Lord Peter Smith (left), with students from Westleigh High School and head teacher John Banks.
A multimillion pound investment programme could see hundreds of new school places created across Wigan Borough and millions of pounds used to pay for much needed upgrades at local schools.
The plan to spend more than £38m on education improvements over the next three years will go before Wigan Council’s cabinet on Thursday (April 10).
The money would pay for extra school spaces to accommodate the borough’s booming birth-rate. It would also cover the cost of converting any primary schools spread over two sites on to single sites and ensuring all primary schools can take children from reception age through to year six.
The funding would come – subject to cabinet approval – from the council’s own funds for school spending and a series of government grants. Although some of the £38m would be used to rebuild those schools most in need of refurbishment, the majority of the money would go towards addressing the growing number of children requiring school places.
Wigan Borough schools are enjoying a period of unprecedented success. Eighty-five per cent of schools have achieved a good or outstanding Ofsted judgement and exam results are surpassing previous records. For the last two years, the chief inspector of Ofsted has highlighted the success of the borough’s schools in his annual report.
A recent surge in demand for primary school places means the council has to plan for a similar increase in secondary schools over the coming years as those children progress through the education system. Steps are required to increase school capacity to ensure there are sufficient year seven places across the borough by 2017.
The proposals being put to cabinet include increasing the intake at Westleigh High School in Leigh and at St Peter’s Catholic High School in Orrell. There are further plans to increase the intake at other secondary schools in the west of the borough.
Recent high birth-rates have meant further investment in the borough’s primary schools to accommodate an increasing number of children. As such, Ince St Mary’s Church of England Primary School and Marus Bridge Primary School have already received approval to have an additional 15 places.
Councillor Susan Loudon, Wigan Council cabinet member for children and young people, said: “I’m proud of our schools and pleased they are proving popular with parents. We’re seeing increasing demand for places and our projections suggest this trend is likely to continue for some time. It’s essential we act now to ensure we have enough space for those children who want a place. This is the start of a comprehensive plan to ensure we have capacity in the right areas.
“It’s a good example of long-term planning and demonstrates our commitment to giving children and young people a great start in life. The council has worked hard to find this money and we’ve been successful in our bids for government grants. That we’ve managed to raise such a large sum of money for school investment is itself a significant achievement given the current austerity we are dealing with.
“If the plans are approved, we will work hard to ensure any school expansion or renovation has the support of our communities and school staff.”
The investment would also benefit schools in need of repair. Two million pounds would be spent rebuilding Britannia Bridge Primary School in Ince and £14m would pay for the Deanery Church of England High School in Wigan to be rebuilt.
Leader of Wigan Council Lord Peter Smith said: “This is a huge investment in our schools, which already have an admirable reputation and are one of the borough’s biggest assets. This money would help us build on our school success.
“As part of The Deal, the council’s campaign to encourage the public to help us change and save money, we’ve prioritised creating opportunities for young people and building strong communities. Investing in education is a key part of that.”
More information about The Deal is available at www.wigan.gov.uk/thedeal