A grammar school desperate to save itself from demolition has conceded defeat and will now press forward with plans for a replacement new-build on a neighbouring car park.
Bosses at Simon Langton Girls’ earlier this month told how they wanted to protect the impressive art deco building from being pulled down, pledging instead to fight for its refurbishment.
But the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) - which holds the pursestrings for any development - says any external works would have to be coupled with a complete remodelling internally to new specifications.
Such work, it says, would cost £3 million more than building a completely new school and reduce classroom sizes by as much as 40%.
With the ESFA stressing there is no room for bypassing the regulations, and facing the real risk of losing access to the government funding, the school’s Governing Body has now voted to pursue the option of a new-build.
It will be constructed on one of the school’s car parks and include a new main building and a sports hall.
In a letter to parents yesterday, executive head teacher Matthew Baxter said: “These regulations hamper the case for refurbishment and most of our discussions with KCC and the ESFA have been concerned to explore whether any flexibility is possible in the way these regulations are interpreted.
“Whilst the ESFA and KCC have sought to support the school, neither body has been able to alter the regulations and it has been stressed that these regulations exist to ensure equity in the way all schools in the ESFA building programme are treated.
“This conclusion leaves the school in a difficult position; if we were to withdraw from the ESFA programme it would not be realistically possible to raise sufficient funds to refurbish the school and to replace the dilapidated buildings.
“The Governing Body have therefore agreed that they will work with the ESFA to develop the option for a complete new build of the school.”
No plans, or even details of how much the project will cost, have been made public, save for the fact the new-build will comprise at least two buildings - one of them a sports hall.
It will take two years to complete, with the original buildings used for lessons throughout the construction.
Mr Baxter said: “Over the next couple of months we need to work with the ESFA to develop this new-build option.
“Initially, the school will provide much of the necessary information about the school roll, curriculum requirements and particular aspects of the life and culture of the school which should be considered when designing any new buildings.
“No decision has yet been made about the new-build possibilities and I will ensure that during the process of negotiations the options being explored are made available and that you are aware of the progress of discussions.”
He has invited parents to offer their views on what aspects and features should be featured in the new school.