Headteachers and the Bishop of Durham have welcomed an important step forward in plans to create a multimillion-pound campus for two North East schools.
This month, Durham County Council’s Cabinet backed a £34 million investment in new buildings and a joint campus for Belmont Community School and Belmont Church of England Primary School.
Since 2014, the condition of these schools has been a cause of growing concern to the council, local councillors, school leaders and governors. As with all schools across the county, work has been undertaken to repair and maintain the buildings, but these repairs have been judged insufficient to provide a high-quality learning environment for children and young people in Belmont.
Both schools currently feature Consortium of Local Authority Special Programme (CLASP) buildings, which were used for many schools across the country in the 1960s and 1970s. These buildings are now approaching the end of their life expectancy and, in recognition of this, the Government has prioritised new-builds for CLASP schools in the national Schools Rebuilding Programme.
However, last week it was confirmed that the first 50 projects, expected to be completed in the next three to five years, do not include any schools in County Durham and only two in the North East.
Cllr Olwyn Gunn, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “The replacement of two dilapidated schools in County Durham is to be celebrated. Taking place in a fast-growing part of the county, it will provide efficient, attractive new buildings that will massively improve the learning environment for pupils.
“It is disappointing that the Government did not prioritise the county’s schools, but I am delighted we can make a positive difference through this project.”
Now the plans have Cabinet’s backing, they will go before full council on Wednesday 24 February. If approved, the funding for the project will be released over the next three years, and the design process will begin as soon as possible. All partners will be involved in this process and there will be regular updates to the community.
As a faith school, plans for the primary school element of the project are being jointly developed by the council and the Diocesan Boards of Education for the Church of England Dioceses of Durham and Newcastle.
Rt Revd Paul Butler, the Bishop of Durham, said: “I am delighted to hear the news that Cabinet has approved a new building for one of our primary schools. This will be a fantastic addition to Belmont CE Primary School, and one welcomed by the children, staff, parents, and carers. We look forward to continuing our partnership working with Durham County Council to deliver this excellent facility.”
Staff at both schools have also welcomed the development.
Kirsty Harrison-Brown, headteacher of Belmont CE Primary School, said: “The new campus will provide us with a fantastic opportunity to bring together our nursery and primary children in one state-of-the-art building. This will have a transformational impact on the lives of our young people and the community. We are very much looking forward to the future and to the wonderful prospects this will provide for our Belmont family and community.”
Belmont Community School headteacher, Paul Marsden said: “We’ve been working collaboratively with the local authority behind the scenes for some time now and are delighted to be able to finally share this news
“The new build will give everyone in the Belmont School community a much-needed boost in these difficult times. It is great to have something exciting and positive to look forward to. A brand new, state-of-the-art campus will be of great benefit to the whole community for generations to come.
“We will finally have world class buildings to go alongside the world class education the children receive.”