By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
The Department for Education has defended its decision to press ahead with plans to build a new secondary school in Thanet despite strong opposition from Kent councillors.
Kent County Council has been overruled by Boris Johnson’s Government as Maidstone County Hall bosses tried to ditch plans, from 2017, to build a new education institution at Margate’s former Royal School for Deaf Children.
The Department for Education says the school will offer ‘more choice for parents’ and will be necessary to cope with local population growth, predicted to increase from 1.5million people to 1.8million in Kent by 2038.
A Government spokesman said: “A new school in Margate will provide more choice for parents and will address a significant shortfall of school places forecasted in the area.”
Nearly 700 pupils will be expected to study at the school, still earmarked for the 14.7 acre Victoria Road site, near Margate town centre, It will be built over the next three years. It was originally planned for development by September 2022.
KCC’s former leader Paul Carter (Con), whose final act as the head of the county council was to cancel the proposal on October 17 last year, said the DfE’s verdict was of ‘great disappointment’.
Cllr Carter said: “The new school is unnecessary, will not be in the best interest of continuing to improve secondary education in Thanet and is a massive waste of tax payers money.”
Margate councillor Barry Lewis (Lab), who represents the area at county level, also slammed the Government over the decision over the new school, which he said was an ‘expensive disaster’.
He said: “It’s totally unacceptable for an unelected bureaucrat in Whitehall to overrule the cross-party objections from Kent’s democratic members.”
His comments come after Cllr Carter previously said KCC could save up to £10.3million by expanding other Thanet schools, including Westgate’s Ursuline College and King Ethelbert’s School in Birchington.
In addition, County Hall leaders said they hoped to permit a temporary expansion to Royal Harbour Academy in Ramsgate until 2024.
However, the Department of Education has told the Local Democracy Reporting service that Government ministers considered the proposal to cancel the project and declined to agree with KCC last month.
Since the decision was made, several Thanet headteachers have written to KCC proposing a meeting to discuss the implications and next steps.
Among them is Newington primary head teacher Cliff Stokes who had been pushing for a secondary build at the site to turn it into an all through school.
KCC’s portfolio holder for education, Cllr Richard Long (Con), told his nine cabinet colleagues he was “disappointed” by the outcome during a public meeting at Maidstone County Hall, in Sessions House, two days ago.
Cllr Long added: “The decision of the minister is absolutely clear and really we have no choice.”
The 14.7-acre site on Victoria Road and Park Crescent Road features around 120,000 sq ft of school buildings, including former student housing.
Margate’s Royal Deaf School shut in in December 2015 after The John Townsend Trust, which ran it, went into administration.
The distressing closure of the school and Westgate College resulted in some 500 job losses and scores of children left without a specialist school placement.
Just get it built it is very important to have as much choice and places for the growing population of Thanet it’s all very well these councillor say it’s not needed but they don’t live here and have probably never even visited Thanet.
This is a sensible decision. Anyone who travels by car or bus along the duel carriageway between Garlinge and Birchington from 08:00 – 09:00 and 14:30 -15:30 will know the implications of enlarging the Ursuline and King Ethelberts schools.
Reducing a duel carriageway to a single lane carriageway in both directions creates problems for the free flow of traffic. To enlarge both schools would create more problems than at present for road users.
The proposed future bypass for Birchington and Westgate would make no difference especially should the developments proceed along the Shottendane Road area through to Quex Caravan Park area.
The possible proposal to build 2250 + dwellings along this route brings its own problems.
All these problems can be overcome we need more housing so we need more schools on this you must agree!putting obstacles in the way does not help
Biased thinking by KCC to grab the money to spend on affluent areas where their voters live and keep Thanet in the 3rd world education standard has failed.
So greedy that even Boris and Co recognised the depth of class hatred coming from KCC. Any hope of rescue for our third rate, third world QEQM?
We need schools all the houses built and promises of schools and surgeries
But KCC give Stagecoach £132m
They employed Woodford to embezzle pension funds… What use are KCC
It’s got a cart you off virus box
Shut the stroke unit
Children’s ward closed
How about deep cleansing KCC
Watch this space.
Marva and Barry Lewis will be along to talk nonsense (as usual) about this great new secondary school.
Barry did not want it
Waste of money
KCC wanted to cram people into academies…
We need an Austic school
I really don’t understand why this Box person keeps mentioning me. I can understand his or her mentioning Barry Lewis, who is a councillor with some responsibility and a say in council decisions, but why me? Very peculiar!
Councilor Lewis is
For saying education is a waste of money
We need an Austic school