New School To Be Built Early

Dorset county councillors have given the go-ahead for construction of Swanage's new free school early next year, on condition the work does not interfere with the education of local schoolchildren.

Cabinet members have given permission for The Swanage School to start building works on the existing Swanage Middle School site in February 2013, six months earlier than planned.

But as part of the deal, disruption to Middle School pupils must be kept to a minimum and Swanage Town Council must also release land on Northbrook Road for the relocation of St Mary's RC Primary School.

The move is part of the wider reorganisation of education currently taking place in Purbeck, which is switching from a three- to a two-tier school system. This will see the closure of all existing middle schools in July 2013 and the expansion of first schools into primaries, with the Purbeck School as a secondary school.

It was originally agreed by the county council that no major construction works would begin on middle school sites before their closure. In Swanage, from next summer the middle school site will be jointly occupied by St Mark's CE Primary School and the new Government-backed free secondary school, The Swanage School.

But the situation became more complicated when The Swanage School asked to begin construction in February, to avoid the creation of a temporary school.

However, agreement has been reached that the building work can be managed to avoid major impact on pupils during the final months of the Middle School, and the Middle School has also given its blessing to the early start.

Swanage Town Council will also be expected to hand over the land it leases at Northbrook Road without delay, which will allow the development of St Mary's RC school as scheduled. There is no impact on any other planned work to the remaining schools in the Purbeck area.

Cllr Toni Coombs, Dorset County Council cabinet member for children's services, said:

"This is an extremely complex and sensitive issue, linked with the wider Purbeck schools reorganisation.

"Any delays here will substantially increase costs and affect the money available for other aspects for the reorganisation, including the proposed new primary school in Bere Regis.

"We have balanced the competing views and needs of the local area and have agreed a way forward that is in the best interests of local children across Purbeck.

"It will ensure the Purbeck schools reorganisation remains on track and within budget."