Published: 00:01, 23 May 2014
Education chiefs are spending £150,000 on laptops, iPads and PCs for the debt-ridden Chaucer School – despite its imminent closure.
Kent County Council is investing the “ludicrous” sum in top-of-the-range computer equipment, even though the majority of pupils have already left.
The kit, originally intended for more than 600 pupils to use, will benefit just 136 staying to finish their GCSEs before the Spring Lane site shuts next year.
The splurge includes £90,000 on new servers, £30,000 on 80 new PCs, £18,000 on 15 iPads, 30 Nexus 7 notebook tablets, laptops and projector equipment and £12,000 on a wireless internet system.
The authority says the money was allocated before the closure was on the table and insists it is “of vital importance” to the remaining few youngsters.
But critics have branded the investment “strange” in light of the budget crisis which partly caused the school’s collapse in the first place.
Campaign manager for the Taxpayers’ Alliance, Andy Silvester, says: “The idea that once a decision is taken it cannot be undone is ludicrous.
“This seems a strange way to allocate £150,000 of taxpayers’ money, especially when the school is in such dire financial straits.
“The public rightly expect Kent County Council to deliver high-quality school facilities, so they must ensure that this equipment is put to the best possible use once this particular school is closed down.”
KCC confirmed the equipment will be given to other schools once Chaucer shuts for good, but could not yet say which ones will benefit.
The shock decision to close the troubled school was exclusively revealed by the Kentish Gazette in February, and confirmed by KCC chiefs the following week.
Plummeting pupil numbers, an appalling Ofsted report and crippling debts thought to top £1 million each contributed to KCC’s decision to start a public consultation on the closure.
They admitted the school was no longer viable because its dwindling pupil roll meant it did not have enough money to pay for teachers and other resources.
Only 26 families opted for Chaucer as their first choice school for the next academic year after it was placed into special measures last April.
“It’s crazy. If they’d invested in Chaucer sooner perhaps it wouldn’t have been put in special measures and it wouldn’t be closing" - Sue Tomkinson
As many as 234 of its 613 pupils have since moved on to other schools, with a further 243 expected to leave before September.
Among them is Year 9 pupil Aiden Caldwell, 13, from Littlebourne, who is leaving Chaucer this week to start at St Anselm’s.
His mum Sue Tomkinson, 42, thinks the IT investment is too little, too late.
She says: “It’s crazy. If they’d invested in Chaucer sooner perhaps it wouldn’t have been put in special measures and it wouldn’t be closing.
“Surely the money can be better spent elsewhere, like helping to pay for travel. I now have to find £200 to pay for Aiden’s bus pass to St Anselm’s after KCC refused to help.”
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