Harrogate school renews call for money for building

St. John Fisher Catholic High School headteacher Rob Pritchard. Picture: Adrian Murray. (1411173AM1)
St. John Fisher Catholic High School headteacher Rob Pritchard. Picture: Adrian Murray. (1411173AM1)
  • St John Fisher wants to expand the building to accommodate rising student numbers
  • NYCC has said there is £51m available to schools over the next three years to improve the condition of their buildings
  • As a voluntary aided school, St John Fisher can only access £1.3m of that this year, with a similar figure for 2016/17 and 2017/18
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The headteacher at St John Fisher Catholic High School is renewing his call for money to expand the school.

Responding to news that £51m will be available to North Yorkshire schools over the next three years to improve the condition of their buildings, Rob Pritchard said St John Fisher should be a priority.

We are the most successful school in the county at secondary level, but we receive the lowest funding in the county, and I think we deserve some resources.

St John Fisher headteacher Rob Pritchard

Mr Pritchard, who has said previously he wants to add 17 new classrooms to the school at a cost of £5m, said: “I think we are the most successful school in the county at secondary level, but we receive the lowest funding in the county, and I think we deserve some resources in terms of capital expenditure to meet the needs of the youngsters.

“Yet again we are massively oversubscribed and because of the demographic in North Yorkshire it means as time goes on there will be more and more children to cater for.

“I would like to improve on some of the resources we have with those funds, so we are actively lobbying the local authority. It is our condition we are interested in and hopefully the council will be sympathetic to us on that.”

The £51m, from government allocations for maintenance, improvement, and new construction, is made up of capital allocation to North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) of £13.2m a year, plus the money devolved directly to schools, bringing the total to £17m for the next three years.

However, voluntary aided schools like John Fisher - the only one in Harrogate - can only access £1.3m of that money this year, and a similar figure for 2016/17 and 2017/18.

NYCC executive member for schools Coun Arthur Barker (Con) said: “North Yorkshire is responsible for some 350 schools, many of them small and with aging buildings.

“Overall we are very pleased to get this additional funding for maintaining and improving the physical condition of our schools.

“We have a rising backlog of maintenance and this funding isn’t going to address all that, but it will go a long way to helping our schools continue to be fit for purpose to deliver a 21st century school curriculum.”

Two North Yorkshire schools, Barlby High School, Selby, and Willow Tree primary, Harrogate, have also been included in a programme for replacement buildings through the government’s £2b Priority Schools Building Programme, though the authority had actually bid for eight replacement schools.

Leadership at St John Fisher had wanted to access some of this funding for their planned expansion, but was told it had missed the deadline to apply. It is hoped some of the £1.3m available to voluntary aided schools this year could help with the proposed expansion.

Mr Pritchard said: “It is absolutely beautiful here in the way it looks and everybody who comes round the building agrees, but it could be enhanced relatively easily.

“We have got a bid in at the moment for some capital for changing rooms and new classrooms and we are quite hopeful, but that is £250,000 not a fortune. The slice I really want is a good piece of capital which will see us through for the next 25 years.

“We are still a local authority maintained school here. Because we are voluntary-aided we will not be able to apply for all of that money, but we can for some of it.

“It would be interesting to see what funds are made available in May after the election.”

In a separate announcement, NYCC was also allocated a further £1m for the provision of additional school places in 2017/18, supporting an allocation of £40m announced last year.

The authority has also received additional capital funding of nearly £600,000 to support the delivery of universal infant free school meals. This means that North Yorkshire is able to refurbish a further three school kitchens in most need of renovation.

GUIDANCE FROM NYCC

Capital allocation for schools is allocated based on pupil numbers and building condition.

Funding for voluntary aided (VA) schools is driven by the number of children in those schools, which is the main reason why the allocation is much smaller than for other schools.

The council has said the £1.3m for VA schools - an indicative annual figure for the next three years - is proportionate to the total for North Yorkshire schools.

The rest of the funding supports investments at other maintained schools.

Funding has not been allocated yet, and NYCC will agree a programme on April 7.