Concerns over new Barnoldswick school

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PENDLE Council’s West Craven Committee and Barnoldswick Town Council have expressed strong concern over plans to rebuild and expand Barnoldswick CE Primary School.

Both borough and town councillors have said they support the idea of replacing the existing school building, but object to the plan for it to be relocated on the site of West Craven High Technology College in Kelbrook Road.

They registered their views during the public consultation stage led by Lancashire County Council.

The council’s proposal for a new school would create an extra 30 spaces each year from next September, taking the register from 202 pupils to 420 and becoming two-form entry.

The county’s Executive Director for Children and Young People, Helen Denton, said a new school was needed to deal with an increase in birth rates in West Craven and the current school being too small and in a poor condition.

Discussing the issue at the latest West Craven Committee meeting, councillors agreed the current school building is not fit for purpose and supported a new build.

But they suggested the proposals could prove detrimental to pupils at the school, and others.

Coun. David Whipp said: “The proposal for a two-form entry school is causing concern in the educational community. Local schools fear what could happen to them as a consequence of the extra places at Church School.

“Just 10 years ago, Lancashire County Council said there were too many primary school places in Barnoldswick and closed the Rainhall Road school. We said then that, in a few years’ time, the numbers will go back up and we will need places again.

“Now they are saying there is a growth in population and we have to create more places again.

“The fear from other schools now is that if the population drops again and the county council looks to take out the surplus places, they are not going to take away from the brand new school. They will look at some of the older ones. Could there be another school lost?

“Salterforth is very fearful of the impact of a new-build school because of its proximity to West Craven High.

“There is a huge raft of issues and quite a complex set of circumstances.”

As well as resolving to support the replacement of Church School, the committee asked the county council to consider the impact of a two-form entry primary school on other primary educational establishments in West Craven. The committee also requested that any new-build school should be provided at land off Clifford Street and access to the new school should be through the sports centre site off Kelbrook Road.

Councillors also expressed concern at the suggestion that at the time of the new intake next September, there will be no new school built yet but the number of pupils will exceed the places.

Coun. Whipp said: “At the consultation event they said there were couple of alternatives to the school which is so cramped. One is using Rainhall Road school and the other is to use empty facilities in the high school.

“That proposal fills me with horror because there is a huge difference between primary and secondary and to thrust a class of primary age pupils into high school environment is selling our children short.

“It might only be for a year or two but I think that could blight their educational careers and they only get one chance at it. It is utterly wrong.”

Barnoldswick Town Council also expressed concern over road safety, saying: “Most children would have to cross two busy main roads. The proposed site is not central and the geographical spread would mean longer journeys to school for some children.”

County Coun. Keith Bailey responded to the comment, saying he was in favour of the new school build in principle but agreed there were issues to be ironed out.

He disagreed with proposals for the school to be built on land off Clifford Street, saying the children would still have to cross roads in a built-up area.

He continued: “I do share concerns about the extra children next year. Why spend money on out-sourcing classrooms? I don’t agree with that and think they should wait until the new school is there before starting the two-form entry. There is provision in other schools like Earby to take children next year. The initial surge in birth rates is from Earby, and then from the rest of West Craven.”

Coun. Bailey said the Government investment in a new school would be great for the area.

“A new school would cost £7m.. When do we ever get that much money spent in Barnoldswick? It is great news for the town and great news for our children in the future.”

He also said he was not worried about the fate of other schools. “I think the smaller schools will be fine. At the end of the day, parents vote with their feet and it is their choice where they send their children. Some want their children to go to a Church of England school, so they will send them to Barnoldswick even if they live in Earby. Some want them to go to a Catholic school, and some prefer the village schools because of the pupil/teacher ratio.

“As far as Rainhall Road School closing, I take the point it was because there was a dip in number and now a rise, but it is not a building fit for purpose as a modern school. It only has a little yard and we are now looking at schools having green field space, so it would not have been suitable for children in this modern age. You have to move with the times and Church School definitely needs a new building.

“Barnoldswick and Earby are continuing to grow, especially with new housing developments that are being put through. More people want to move here because it’s a great place to live and that will be reflected in the schools.”

The county council public consultation has now closed. A final decision is expected in March.