Schools face anxious wait

IPSWICH: Secondary education in the town was thrown into chaos today following the cancellation of the government’s Building Schools for the Future programme.

Angry parents, teachers and students were coming to terms with the fact that they would not be getting the new school buildings they were preparing for.

And the town faced the prospect of being left with creaking white elephants that are too large for the purpose they are serving.

Westbourne Sports College headteacher Chris Edwards said: “This is a bad day for education in Ipswich. We all had been making plans centred on the BSF programme.”

His school had been placed on the programme in 2003 – and should have had new buildings three years ago.

“Shortly after I started here in 2003, we were about to build a new �1.1million sports centre. The money was all there and everything was signed off.

“I was then told that because we had been put in the BSF programme the funding for that centre would not be available because we would get a new centre as part of the development which would be complete by 2007.

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“Here we are now and there is still nothing to be seen.”

Mr Edwards had been frustrated by the BSF process.

“All the talk about it being a bureaucratic nightmare is absolutely true – it has taken a huge amount of effort to get this far and we get the rug pulled from under our feet just as we have jumped through all the hoops.”

Another school to lose out is Chantry High – and its headteacher Andrew Fell issued a statement expressing his disappointment.

He said: “All of us at Chantry High School are very disappointed by the news of the cancellation of the BSF programme. We had put an enormous amount of time and effort into planning and preparation.

“I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank our staff, pupils, parents and governors for all the work and the time they have given freely.

“Our school is a fantastic school and will continue to grow and develop at a pace.”

Holywells High has not been taken out of the scheme – it is still under consideration because of its application for academy status.

Executive head Ian Bloom said: “We are hoping we can still succeed because of the academy changes – and we are looking to develop an entirely new learning environment here.

“I am optimistic that we will get the funding – but I feel for my fellow heads who have had bad news.”

The two Tory MPs for Ipswich promised to try to help their schools.

Ben Gummer, whose Ipswich constituency includes Chantry and Holywells, was very unhappy.

He said: “I am very angry – angry that the previous government had created such a bureaucratic nightmare for schools seeking to rebuild themselves.

“This has meant that schools like Chantry have had to spend a lot of time, energy, and money to get to a position when the funding was always looking unclear.

“I have already written to Michael Gove about the situation in Ipswich and I shall be trying to see what I can do to help the schools in future.”

Dr Dan Poulter, whose North Ipswich constituency includes Westbourne and Thurleston, also felt the previous government was to blame.

“They were making promises that were always going to be unaffordable.

“I know it is very disappointing for the schools – but education is about more than bricks and mortar and I will do all I can to help them raise the standard of education.”

n Does your school need new buildings? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail evening

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