Rochdale’s children’s services chief has spoken of his delight after the borough was awarded two new secondary schools, providing hundreds of desperately needed places.
Councillor Kieran Heakin has declared himself ‘over the moon’ following the government’s announcement that applications for new schools in Middleton and the Pennines – are among 22 to be approved nationwide.
These will both be ‘free schools’ – funded by the government but run by independent organisations rather than the local authority – as councils are no longer allowed to set up their own schools to meet demand.
A site for the new free school in Middleton – named The Edgar Wood Academy – has been identified at Bowlee. It will be run by The Altus Education Partnership, the governing behind the ‘outstanding’-rated Rochdale Sixth Form College.
The new school in the Pennines is to be run by Star Academies, which already has a number of schools across the country and is likely to be built at Littleborough Playing Fields.
A council report circulated earlier this year forecast that, by 2021/22, Middleton and the Pennines would be short of 163 and 132 places respectively – sparking serious concerns among elected members.
But these have been allayed by the announcement that Rochdale has been awarded two new schools via the government.
The Edgar Wood Academy alone is due to create 180 new Year 7 places, ultimately reaching a capacity of 900 by 2026.
The capacity of the Star Academies new school is yet to be confirmed.
Coun Heakin said: “I’m absolutely over the moon, absolutely delighted – it’s unbelievable really that we have got two of them.
“We desperately need a new school in Middleton – we are aware of that – and have a site identified at Bowlee. Now we have approval we can get cracking and get building. We can tell people in Middleton there will be a school there sometime in 2021.”
“To get the Littleborough school is incredible, we never expected to get two, we thought we would get one, especially as we have got the special school (at Heywood, opening in 2022) as well – we’ve won the treble, it’s better than Liverpool and Man City combined!”
Coun Heakin said the new schools would provide ‘a fantastic learning environment’, adding, “We know this will provide a lot of reassurance for families who have been worried about places and further strengthens the fantastic school offer we have in the borough”
And while that still leaves the areas short of places in the interim, Coun Heakin says the borough will be able to use ‘bulge classes’ and temporary accommodation to bridge the gap.
“It will just be a case of making do until we are able to open in 2021. We have already identified the sites and got the go-ahead from the government. It’s a question of getting on with it really,” he said.
Richard Ronksley, CEO of Altus Education Partnership and principal of Rochdale Sixth Form College said: “Edgar Wood Academy will provide outstanding opportunities and transform the lives of young people in the borough. Altus is fully committed to providing the very best education for students.”
He added: “Rochdale’s young people are our future; working in partnership, we will help them progress
on to local, national and international careers that will positively transform our community.”
Hamid Patel, chief executive of Star Academies added, “A clear focus on character-building in Star Academies gives pupils the confidence and resilience to compete on an international stage with young people from more advantaged backgrounds.”
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