Major investment in Colchester schools

ONE of the largest ever investments in Colchester schools is set to be unveiled today, moving the possibility of an academy a step closer.

James Hore

ONE of the largest ever investments in Colchester schools is set to be unveiled today, moving the possibility of an academy a step closer.

Essex County Council is set to announce details of more than �130million of Government money from the Building Schools for the Future fund.

The capital investment will be used to build new classrooms and upgrade out-of-date buildings to expand capacity at popular schools and is also a green-light for the replacement of Sir Charles Lucas School with an academy.

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Lord Hanningfield, leader of the council, hailed the news as one of the “biggest events we have ever had in the town”, saying all pupils would benefit from the cash.

He said schools such as St Helena and Philip Morant would be upgraded but the decision also means the council's attempts to close Alderman Blaxill and The Thomas Lord Audley (TLA) schools will now gather pace.

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However, the National Union of Teachers has questioned the need for the academy and claimed the council's policies still mean children's education in the south of Colchester will suffer from the closure of TLA and Alderman Blaxill schools.

Lord Hanningfield, council leader, told the EADT: “This is about the biggest event we have ever had in the town for education.

“The schools will get a revamp - the rebuilding of St Helena and the building of an academy at the Sir Charles Lucas site will be the big ones.

“But it is a win-win for all schools. The Government was always going to back an academy as it is policy and most of the people supported the academy.

“I hope that the NUT will work with this one as they have with the one in Witham - it is Government policy and the law of the land, so if they want to argue, it is with the Government.”

Lord Hanningfield admitted the investments in more popular schools with long waiting lists meant they could now proceed with the official notices announcing the closure of TLA and Alderman Blaxill.

But Jerry Glazier, executive NUT member for Essex, said: “The council has shrunk provision to the detriment of the local community that are serviced by TLA and Alderman Blaxill and whilst there will be better vocational provision for the whole of town in that area, it does not meet the needs of key-stage three pupils - the provision of which will be non-existent in their plan.

“Building schools for the future is a long-term commitment which we support of refurbishing and replacing schools but some of the arguments used to justify the academy seem to be underminded significantly.

“Yes, Sir Charles Lucas is a school that was built in 1967/8 and if you believe schools need to be replaced, I support that view but there is no need to replace it with an academy and there is no justification to replace it with an academy.”

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