School seeking cash for repairs

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Wetherby High School governors have said it is a “safe and secure environment for children” as the bid for funding for building repairs continues.

The comments were made after senior Leeds councillor, Coun Jonathan Pryor claimed the secondary school could face closure if it did not receive Government funding for desperately needed repairs.

But Wetherby Coun Cindy Bentley, who is chairman of governors at the school, told the Wetherby News: “It is a sad fact that hundreds of schools up and down the country, including many in our region, would benefit greatly from investment in their buildings and facilities.

“In the last three years, over a million pounds has been invested in Wetherby High School.

“Our school has the full support of the local authority and both officers and politicians are working with the school and local partners to secure further investment.

“Wetherby High School is a safe and secure environment where our children are happy and thriving. I and my fellow governors look forward to seeing it go from strength to strength in the coming years.”

Coun Pryor, the executive member for learning at Leeds City Council, has written to Education Secretary Damian Hinds calling for urgent action, warning three Leeds secondaries could face closure or a move to temporary accommodation if pleas are ignored.

With population increases, he said in his letter to the Minister, that a significant number of new school places are needed alongside new buildings.

“Leeds schools are at breaking point,” warned Coun Pryor, revealing that meetings were first sought with the Education Secretary in September but that he had as yet received no response or acknowledgment.

“If the points in this letter continue to be ignored by the Government, we may find ourselves in a position where schools in Leeds could face closure, or a move to temporary modular accommodation, on health and safety grounds.”

The condition of a number of schools in the city has worsened since the end of the Government’s repair programme in 2010, he said, claiming Leeds City Council also now receives around £260m less a year that it did nine years ago.

Calling for Mr Hinds to visit the three sites - Wetherby, Benton Park and Royds High - he added: “The young people of Leeds deserve schools that are not falling down.”

The original letter, submitted to the Department for Education (DfE) and local MPs at the start of the academic year, warned that the city council was then at a point where it was considering closing schools. The trio are in a state of disrepair, Coun Pryor disclosed, and needed urgent rebuilding - at a cost of £50m.

At Wetherby High School, the letter detailed, the main block needs rebuilding, with an urgent need to replace curtain walling and windows.

A DfE spokesperson said: “There are now 17,565 more school places in Leeds than there were in 2010.

“We provide School Condition Allocations to local authorities to invest in their schools for which they are responsible, including £6.7m for Leeds this year.”

Wetherby Lib Dems this week said they would work with the three independent Wetherby councillors - Cindy Bentley and Kazia Knight, who last week resigned from the Conservative party, and Denise Podlewska - to help find an answer to the problem.

David Hopps, Chairman of the Wetherby Liberal Democrats said: “Wetherby deserves a solution to its deteriorating school facilities and until it gets one parents will continue to vote with their feet and many will cross the border to educate their children in North Yorkshire.

“Tensions grew within the Conservative ranks last year over the debate over the future of Boston Spa and Wetherby schools with the education funding crisis to some extent setting the two communities against each other in a battle for survival.

“Boston Spa won the right to academy status, leaving Wetherby facing an uncertain future.”

Mr Hopps added: “Labour scaremongering over potential closure makes the situation even worse.

“A school with great values and dedicated support for its pupils deserves better from its politicians than a destructive combination of inadequate funding and public criticism.”

Hopps believes: “A political monopoly in any walk of life is never a good thing. Fiercely independent, alternative views are healthy for the town.

“It may be that we also have our differences in some areas, but I personally look forward to hearing their views on how to get the best outcome for Wetherby High School.”

Coun Bentley said the independent councillors on the town council would be happy to work with anyone of any political persuasion or none who wishes to support Wetherby High.

“But I would emphasise that this is not a matter for party politics,” added Coun Bentley.

“The education of our children and the schools where this happens should be a major concern for all of us, not just politicians.”