Luton Warning for School Places

8 July 2010, 06:00

Luton Borough Council's warning that secondary school places will run out by 2015.

It follows the government's announcement earlier this week to axe plans to rebuild or refurbish seven schools in the town as part of the Building Schools for the Future Programme.

The seven schools, Cardinal Newman Catholic School, Challney High School For Boys, Denbigh High, Icknield High, Putteridge High and Stopsley High, recently learned that their BSF plans have been stopped without discussion, pending the outcomes from an independent review that will produce capital spending plans in December 2010.

Plans for Woodlands Secondary School, a school for children with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties, have also been stopped by the cuts.

These cuts have been made despite independent assessors ruling that all of Luton’s plans were on or exceeding targets, were delivering value for money and increasing the local social and economic benefits.

What does it mean?

The cuts will take immediate effect, with the loss of opportunities at Cardinal Newman and Stopsley High School felt most keenly. Proposals for both schools had been finalised and, together with Ashcroft and Lealands, construction was due to begin on site in September 2010.

Plans for these two schools would have delivered 650 additional secondary school places by April 2013.
Without these school places, Luton will run out of secondary school places in April 2015 and increase the capacity of Luton schools to meet parental preferences.

Luton Borough Council has spent £5.1m on business case studies for the Building Schools for the Future project, and these cuts mean that £3.5m of that investment has now been wasted.

The loss of the Phase 3 projects (at Challney Boys, Denbigh, Putteridge, Icknield and Woodlands) leaves Luton children at a further disadvantage, since work at these schools would have offered the Council  the capacity to deal with population growth by providing an additional 1,400  school places.

Phase 3 projects also included proposals that aimed to help vulnerable children and young people, and further delay in improving and transforming the educational opportunities available for these young people will put them at an increasing disadvantage.

Additionally, performance clauses agreed by partners ensured local businesses and local people were benefitting from the BSF programme. Currently, 41% of construction value is being spent through local supplies and subcontractors within a short radius of Luton.

Over 60% of unskilled laborers working on Luton BSF projects come from within 15 miles Over 70% of skilled staff come from a base within an hour of Luton Over 20% of subcontractors are procured locally within 15 miles of Luton
75 apprenticeship opportunities have been lost (one for every £2m of construction that has been stopped)

Luton Borough Council is to invite the independent review team assessing capital plans to come to Luton to understand its delivery model and the value it brings.