£40m school expansion programme for North Yorkshire to go ahead

The scheme has been trialled at other schools nearby, like Prince Henry's Grammar School in Otley (above).
The scheme has been trialled at other schools nearby, like Prince Henry's Grammar School in Otley (above).

A huge investment of almost £40m will be ploughed into a programme of school building and expansion to meet the urgent need for school places.

The two year scheme will see £39m spent on increasing school places by a total of 3,200, 1,700 of which are needed by September 2017, now it has been approved by North Yorkshire County Council’s (NYCC) executive committee.

This is to meet a prominent demand in the Harrogate district among others identified as hot spots by NYCC, though expansion will take place across the whole county.

NYCC executive member for schools, 16-19-year-old education, and early years provision Coun Arthur Barker told the Harrogate Advertiser that high demand in Harrogate, partly caused by housing developments, will have to be addressed more than in some other areas of the county.

“Because of the speed of housing development and population growth we must be able to move quickly on our priorities,” he said.

“We will not have seen the expansion of the primary sector like this for a generation but we must ensure that all children have the opportunity to access high quality teaching and learning.

“There is an issue to be dealt with and that issue is being addressed, but I personally don’t regard it as a crisis.”

The executive committee was told at the meeting this week that while North Yorkshire has received a good capital settlement for school places from the government for 2015 to 2017, further investment is needed for future years.

This means NYCC has to make additional resources available despite a programme of wider funding cutbacks.

Though in some rural areas there is a surplus of primary school places, urban areas like Harrogate have a demand that school provision as it stands cannot meet.

As a result of this, NYCC executives agreed that the town is one of the places where ‘significant capital investment’ will be required.

This is likely to mean new schools in the district as well as expansion at existing sites.

Coun Barker said: “Extra places can’t always be fitted into existing primary schools when the sites aren’t suitable for that kind of expansion, so sometimes it will be necessary to build new schools.

“We hope to address the situation in sufficient time. The position is volatile and fast-moving but this is monitored to ensure we have the best knowledge of changes and predictions.

“We are taking a significant step along the road to deliver the necessary places.”

Spending will be made on kitchens and playgrounds as well as additional classrooms.

New schools could also be required in Knaresborough and Northallerton.

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