£30m rebuild for High School

Plans for a £30m rebuild of Wetherby High have been announced by a senior Leeds city councillor following months of uncertainty about the school’s future.

Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 11:49 am

The authority’s deputy leader Coun Jonathan Pryor posted the news onto Twitter and claimed the plans would help “safeguard” the school’s future.

He warned that the proposals are “challenging” and would first need the approval of the Government, but said they had the full backing of local councillors and school leaders.

But Wetherby Ward Councillor Alan Lamb told the Wetherby News that the sixth form will close and some school land will need to be sold.

Further information on dates and plans would be made available in September.

Coun Pryor said: “I would firstly like to thank the staff and pupils of Wetherby High School as well as the entire local community who have been incredibly patient and supportive as we have worked towards this solution which ensures a local school for Wetherby.

“It’s no secret that Wetherby High School has been in need of investment and I have been vocal about my efforts to attract Government funding.

“Although that wasn’t forthcoming, I am delighted that we have been able to work alongside the school and the local councillors to find a solution that will safeguard the future of the school for the local community.”

The announcement follows a plea from Coun Pryor back in June 2020 when he claimed schools in Leeds faced a repairs backlog of £100m and wrote to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

Wetherby High headteacher Samantha Jefferson welcomed the news.

“We are delighted that the children of Wetherby High School will get to continue their successful education in the modern and purpose-built school they deserve.

“This will support the children and local community to do this.”

“It’s no secret that Wetherby High School has been in need of investment.”

The head told the Wetherby News that Wetherby High School has been through a period of significant transformation in recent years.

This was recognised OFTED in 2019 when it was regraded as ‘Good’ with ‘Outstanding’ for Personal Development and Behaviour and Welfare.

She added: “Since then the school has continued to go from strength to strength, delivering high academic outcomes and pastoral support for children.

“This has all been achieved in a school building in need of investment.”

She added: While I have and will always maintain, that the unique family feel of our school community comes from the people within it, the children deserve to attend a school in a building that is modern and purpose-built, enabling them to continue to thrive.

“I am delighted that the Local Authority has confirmed its commitment to a new school building for the children.

She added: “I would like to acknowledge the staff, students and families that have supported us in getting to this point.

“Thank you also to Coun Pryor and Coun Lamb for their commitment to securing the new building.

“This will allow the school, at the heart of its community, to serve the community working local groups.”

Parent Phillipa Rhodes-Bolton said she was thrilled to learn of the new build at Wetherby High.

“It will not only be fantastic for the school but will be a positive makeover for the residents of Wetherby.

“The school really cares about the children and this building is giving them the facilities they deserve as a school community.”

Wetherby Ward Coun Alan Lamb praised the whole community for working hard and with determination to reach this point.

“The team at Wetherby have done an incredible job to keep an old school, spread over multiple buildings in different parts of a large site in a proper state to educate children.

It’s been clear to me for many years that the building doesn’t have much life in it and isn’t appropriate for delivering a 21st century education.

“It does a disservice to the brilliant work that goes on inside it.

“Pretty much since I was elected 14 years ago, I have been working with a variety of people to try to find a way to fund a much needed new school building for Wetherby.

“It was incredibly emotional and a real privilege to be able to announce to staff and governors last week that the school is to be rebuilt.”

The announcement follows uncertainty when the city council proposed closing either Boston Spa or Wetherby High School.

Coun Lamb added: “I came to the view that not only could two schools be viable but that it was absolutely the right thing for parents to have a choice.

“I entirely respect that people have different views about academies but by every measure, Boston Spa has gone from strength to strength since GORSE took over and I have no doubt that under the current leadership, it has an exciting and sustainable future.

“It’s not the building that makes a school outstanding or not.

“It’s the leadership, the behaviour, the teaching and learning, the culture and ethos and the passion of every member of staff combined with the commitment of the pupils that will determine that.

“A school building, does need to be fit for purpose however.”

He confirmed that the new Wetherby High will not have a sixth form and some school land will need to be sold.

“The funding for the new building is complicated and there are some trade-offs and there are still some hurdles to get over.

“Some of the school land will have to be sold to help pay for the rebuild.

“I wish it wasn’t the case but if we let the school wither until it can’t safely operate, we would likely see the whole site lost to development and not have a school.

“The new school will not have a sixth form but given the array of options young people have at 16, it simply wouldn’t be financially viable to support this as well.

“The plan from here is for a period of consultation and I have asked that the community is heavily involved in shaping the final designs.”

“I want to see a building that can support outstanding education but also provide new and much needed facilities that everybody in the community can benefit from.”