More than £10 million will be spent on expanding two York secondary schools – the most money City of York Council has ever invested on such projects.
The cash will go on enlarging Fulford School and Archbishop Holgate’s CE Academy to make room for 400 extra pupils expected to need school places in the next five years.
And the council even considered building a new secondary school to cope with increasing numbers of students. But a meeting heard that the pupil numbers would be too low and it would not represent value for money.
Lorna Savage, head teacher at Fulford School, said the site is already oversubscribed and taking more pupils than its published admission number.
She said the Germany Beck development will increase demand for places, adding:
We’re in a position now where neither [Fulford nor Archbishop Holgate’s School] can continue to accommodate that demand without further expansion.
We’re very fortunate in York, we’re very blessed with fantastic school provision.
Investing in the schools would be very much investing in the future of our city.
Going to another level
Ms Savage said a lot of the school is single storey, so another level could be added without increasing the footprint of the building.
But she added that there are “issues around access” which must be addressed.
A council spokesman confirmed that £7m was invested in expanding Fulford School in 2014 and, while the local authority has funded a number of smaller expansions, this will be the largest amount ever spend on a single scheme.
About 400 further school places will be needed in the south and east of York, councillors heard at an executive meeting.
Officers said both schools are rated outstanding, popular and significantly oversubscribed.
The council also considered building a new free school to meet demand for places, as well as transporting pupils to schools in other parts of the city where there are more spaces available.
But spending £10.4m on creating more classrooms and “social spaces” at the two schools was recommended as the best option.
Not without risk
A council report warns there are risks associated with both schemes as the schools are “urban sites with limited outdoor space and this would have to be taken in to account in looking at design options as part of the feasibility studies”.
It goes on:
There are also access issues at Fulford School related to transport which would need to be resolved as part of the masterplan for the further development of the school site.
Adding additional places to these existing schools would be the most cost effective way of meeting the rise in pupil numbers as it would minimise transport and capital development costs and the build could deliver additional places within the timescale.
Cllr Ian Cuthbertson welcomed the plans, saying: “Certainly this seems to be the only way forward in this particular context.”
Further reports on the expansion schemes will be prepared for councillors before the funding is allocated from the council budget.