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Funding shortage hits school plans

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: October 02, 2013

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A BID to increase the number of primary school places available in Bodmin has been hit by government underfunding.

Cornwall Council had applied for £18.8m to provide an additional 840 school places in pressure areas including Bodmin.

Now the local authority has been shocked to learn it will receive only £7.8m, and is lobbying ministers to reconsider the decision.

St Petroc's Primary School in Bodmin had been expecting a large slice of the funding to provide classrooms to accommodate an extra 90 children, but now the local authority is unable to determine how and where the reduced funding allocation will be spent.

The Education Funding Agency said the level of funding the council would receive was based on expected construction costs, which are calculated on a national construction framework for the building of new schools, rather than the expansion of existing schools.

The local authority says even adopting a scaled-down approach, involving a modular building programme, would still cost £11.2m – leaving a minimum shortfall of £4.2m.

The council and the schools concerned are currently seeking alternative routes to secure additional funding to ensure these school places are provided.

However a solution has not yet been identified.

Andrew Wallis, the council's lead member for children and young people, said: "To say I am disappointed with the Government would be a massive understatement.

"I find it hard to believe that on one hand the Government informs the council that we have all our bids and funding approved, but then find out the actual funding does not even cover the basic build costs.

"This leaves the council in a difficult position regarding having to provide extra school places without the correct funding to do so,'' he said.

Cornwall councillor for the St Petroc's ward Steve Rogerson, who is also chairman of governors at Robartes School, said he too was bitterly disappointed by the funding cut.

"Bodmin desperately needs more primary school places, and this would have been the answer.

"Everyone was looking forward to the extra places being made available at St Petroc's, and I really hope the Government will reconsider its funding allocation.

"But it would have only been a short-term fix anyway, because by 2015, Bodmin will need a great many more primary school places to be made available,'' said Mr Rogerson.

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