Funding change raises hopes for school renovation

A CHANGE to the way capital funding is allocated for education could spell a new opportunity to renovate Alnwick’s deteriorating Duchess’s Community High School.

The coalition government commissioned the James Review, which recommends that schools which are considered ‘dilapidated’ should be eligible for funds for rebuilding.

Now the town’s county councillor, Gordon Castle, says the change would be significant to hopes for his local high school.

And he is urging Northumberland County Council to send a positive message by committing capital towards any future works.

Coun Castle, who is a member of the Conservative Group, said, “If the government decides to accept the findings of the James Review, the Duchess’s High School would be in line for funding by virtue of being considered dilapidated.

“Northumberland County Council now has a window of opportunity to prepare a fresh case for investment. I urge the Liberal Democrats who run the council to quickly commit capital towards refurbishing the school, to show the government that we are able to cover some of the cost locally.”

But he added: “Local people will remember that, in February, the Lib Dems chose to put a rebuild of Ashington Leisure Centre ahead of our high school. For the last three years Northumberland Conservatives have argued consistently that an allocation of capital for rebuilding the high school should be included in the council budget.

“Now is the time for all parties on the council to present a united front, to convince the government that we can meet them half-way on the cost of refurbishment.”

Back in May, Schools Minister Michael Gove was reminded in Parliament of past pledges to address the condition of buildings at the Duchess’s by MP Sir Alan Beith, who has now tabled a new question.

Sir Alan said: “I’ve had discussions with the Secretary of State to get an early decision on the process for the new capital expenditure scheme to which the Duchess’s Community High School could apply, and am following this up with Parliamentary Questions.

“I will ask the Secretary of State for Education when the Government’s response to the Education Capital Review will be issued, when he expects schools and local authorities to be able to apply for funding under the scheme and how quickly schools and local authorities will be able to expect a decision on their applications.”