Berwick MP to meet education minister over relocation of Alnwick school

Sir Alan Beith is to meet education minister David Laws to push for additional funding for the relocation of Alnwick's Duchess's Community High School

Duchess's Community High School in Alnwick
Duchess's Community High School

A Northumberland MP is to meet the education minister to push for additional funding for the relocation of a school.

Sir Alan Beith, Liberal Democrat for Berwick, is to hold talks with schools minister David Laws about the possibility of further government funding in relation to the plans to rebuild Alnwick’s Duchess’s Community High School on a new site.

The minister has indicated he will “consider” providing additional funding, with the government having already agreed to provide money for the new build.

Sir Alan has also put pressure on Northumberland County Council to consider funding areas the government money will not cover - furniture, fittings and IT equipment.

The county council bid to the government’s £2bn Priority School Building Programme in October 2011 for a new high school for Alnwick, following years of campaigning to replace the Duchess’s crumbling buildings.

The bid also covered new builds at Bedlington and Prudhoe.

In May 2012, it was announced that all would be given funding, with Alnwick and Bedlington given money in the first round.

Council leaders pledged shortly afterwards that they would plug any funding gap.

It later emerged that the pledged money would not cover several aspects of the rebuild projects.

Council bosses subsequently agreed that the authority should provide the capital for some works and to offer loans to the schools for the cost of equipment and furniture.

Now Sir Alan has asked Mr Laws for a meeting to push for additional funding for those areas.

Speaking in the House of Commons, he said: “Although the government’s commitment to rebuild the Duchess’s community high school in Alnwick is very welcome, the problem of furnishing a new-build school is arising there.

“Will the minister discuss with me how we can meet that problem?”

The minister replied: “I will be happy to have those discussions with my right honourable friend.

“I am sure he accepts that where there is furniture and equipment that can sensibly be reused, it should be — it would be ridiculous in these times to waste good furniture and equipment — but where there is a need for support, we will certainly consider that.

“The new buildings for the Duchess’s Community High School are to be built on land at Greensfield and a planning application should be submitted within the next two months.

“The new build funding through the coalition government’s Priority Schools Building Programme does not cover the cost of furniture, fittings and IT equipment and although some of the equipment from the existing high school can be moved, some items will need to be replaced.”

Sir Alan added: “I am trying every approach to see if funds can be found to enable the students and staff to move into the new building with the equipment and IT that is needed for learning and I hope my meeting with the minister will be useful.

“I have also taken this up with Northumberland County Council to see what contribution can be made from council funds; by securing a new building through the Priority Schools Building Programme the council is getting a £27 million investment and it would be very helpful if the remaining costs could be met.”

A spokesman for the council said it had written to Sir Alan informing him that the matter is to be discussed at its forthcoming meeting with the school’s chairman of governors.

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