Kent County Council will fund the majority of a £20 million project to build a secondary school on the site formerly occupied by the Royal School for Deaf Children.
A £3million project will also take place to expand the Ursuline School in Westgate by two forms (two classes extra a year from 2018).
The isle has a shortage of secondary school places available. This year the shortfall was met by three schools taking more than their admission places -Royal Harbour Academy 31 places, Ursuline College 30 places and St George’s CE Foundation School 10 places.
But education chiefs are predicting a shortfall of 183 Year 7 places for 2019/20 and this rises to 227 by 2022/23 if no action is taken.
Across the school year (Years 7-11) this could mean a shortage of 920 places by 2022/23.
The new six form school in Margate would help combat this, along with the Ursuline expansion – to begin in 2018 and be made permanent in 2019.
A competition process is now underway to find a sponsor for the new secondary in Margate. Two applications previously received did not receive consent from the Department for Education as part of its free schools programme. meaning KCC now has to shoulder the responsibility of finding a new sponsor and funding the development.
A lack of developer funding means KCC will have to pay for the majority of the project.
The secondary, which will be a free school, will open for the first year in 2019 at the former Walmer School site with 150 pupils. They will then transfer to the new build the following year with pupil numbers predicted to have doubled and the school roll having students from Year 7-Year 9. By 2022/23 the school is predicted to have 690 pupils enrolled.
The temporary site will result in additional transport revenue costs – circa £100k in 2019/20 – for transporting students for the year that the new school operates from the Deal site.
The Margate school will cater for Years 7-11. The site is not large enough to support a Sixth Form.
A one-off grant of £25,000 will be provided to the successful sponsor by the DfE to cover legal expenses. KCC will provide a budget of £50,000 for start-up costs which will typically commence from January through to 31 August prior to the new school opening on 1 September 2019.
The school will receive guaranteed funding during the first three years.
A report to county councillors at an education committee meeting this month states: “The lack of success in securing a sponsor in Wave 12 of the Free School programme and the delay to the Wave 13 process (Government programmes) has meant that the timeframe to ensure that we have between seven and eight additional forms of entry for children coming through from our primary schools is extremely tight.
“Developers for the strategic sites in Thanet were not able to provide us with the option of sites that could be accessed in the timeframe we required, although there are possibilities for future provision should this be required towards the end of the planning period.
“The acquisition of the former Royal School for the Deaf site has provided us with the opportunity of establishing a new secondary school in an area of high population density. We need to commence the competition process urgently in order to increase our chances of securing a suitable sponsor in time for the opening of the new school.
“Discussions are continuing with all Thanet secondary school headteachers, other interested parties and CEOs of Academy Trusts operating in Thanet to ensure that we can meet the pupil demand coming forward.
“Following consideration of the feasibility reports and taking into account parental popularity, standards and governing body support, we feel that the permanent expansion of Ursuline College by two forms of entry would be the best option.”
A Kent County Council decision to buy the former Royal School for Deaf Children in Victoria Road was approved in September.
The Royal School for Deaf Children was shut down suddenly 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.
A nursery and therapy school, providing some places for younger deaf school pupils, has recently applied to move to Quex so it can expand.
A six week consultation will be held on the proposal for the new school between October 30 and December 8 this year.
Four weeks of consultation will also be held on the proposed expansion of Ursuline.
The consultation is likely to start later in the autumn term.
New primary schools are earmarked for developments at Westwood Cross and Manston Green; either Westgate or Birchington, two requested for the Stone Hill Park (Manston Airport) development and some expansion is expected at St Gregory’s RC Primary School in Margate.