Funds for North East schools warmly welcomed

CHILDREN, parents and teachers at 22 North East schools are celebrating after being allocated funds for new buildings.

Kieran McGrane, Principal of Bedlingtonshire Community High School outside the 1930's block of the school

CHILDREN, parents and teachers at 22 North East schools are celebrating after being allocated funds for new buildings.

The Duchess’s Community High School in Alnwick, where parents and staff have waged a long campaign to replace crumbling buildings, is among those getting funds, Education Secretary Michael Gove announced yesterday.

A total of 22 schools in Northumberland, Gateshead, Durham, North Tyneside and Sunderland, will be rebuilt or refurbished under the programme. Work will begin immediately on those in the worst condition.

Nationally, 587 schools in England applied for money under the £2bn Priority School Building Programme (PSBP), the much-delayed replacement for the Labour Government’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme. Nationally 261 were successful and only one local school that applied missed out on funding, according to council chiefs.

Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith, who helped lead the campaign for Duchess’s, said: “I pay tribute to the way staff and students at the Duchess’s School have continued to work so hard and achieve such good results on a split site in buildings which are now hopelessly unfit for purpose.

“Building the new school will be a boost to the area’s economy and once completed, it will be a fantastic asset for Alnwick and the surrounding area.”

The school’s executive head teacher Maurice Hall said: “So many people have been working hard to make our case to the Government and to make sure we had the best chance of getting on to the priority build scheme. And I am very pleased that central Government are putting funds in place to get the buildings we’ve all been waiting for.

“I’d particularly like to thank Sir Alan for his relentless work on behalf of our school.

“There is still a lot of detail to go through, and I will be working closely with those involved to find out exactly what we need to do next, to think in detail about what our new school could look like, and to ensure our new buildings meet our needs.”

Hexham MP Guy Opperman also welcomed the good news for the three Northumberland schools, but in particular Prudhoe High School after securing talks between its headteacher and the Education Secretary.

“It is great that schools in South and West Northumberland, like Prudhoe, which have been ignored for so long are finally getting the sort of funding they so richly deserve,” said the Conservative MP.

Gateshead MP Ian Mearns said the schools benefiting in his area would be delighted, but expressed disappointment at the time it had taken for the announcement to be made.

Steve Williamson, head of Charles Thorp Comprehensive School in Gateshead – one of those to get funding – said: “The news is very welcome, we are delighted. As a result of assessments previously carried out, under the Building Schools for the Future project before it was pulled, we know very well the areas that need to be addressed.”

Mr Gove admitted yesterday that the way in which he had announced that BSF was to be scrapped in the summer of 2010 was “clumsy”.

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