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Bill to close Chaucer School in Canterbury could be as high as £6m

Fears have been raised that it could cost up to £6 million to close a Canterbury school..

Chaucer School is due to shut next year amid debt thought to total £1 million – although Kent County Council would not confirm the exact figure.

But a parent has questioned why the money being spent on closing the troubled secondary down cannot be used to save it.

The Chaucer School in Canterbury is set for closure
The Chaucer School in Canterbury is set for closure

Speaking at a public consultation meeting with county education chiefs, the parent said: “It would cost £6 million to close the school. KCC should inject that money to develop the school.

“Are KCC going to make available the financial documents that support a recovery plan and the cost of actually closing the school?”

In response, the panel, including KCC education director Patrick Leeson, education planning boss Kevin Shovelton and Swale Academies Trust principal Jon Whitcombe, said the cost of closing the school is far less than the cost of saving it.

They said: “Yes, it costs money to close the school, but it’s a one-off cost. For the school to have a future is a year-on-year cost.

“It is not sustainable to keep the school open. The financial projections for the school are incredibly bleak. The costs of closing the school are not comparable to the figures of continuing to run it.”

The dire financial situation has been caused by dwindling pupil numbers, which has drastically reduced the amount of money the school receives from the government.

Kent County Council's education director Patrick Leeson
Kent County Council's education director Patrick Leeson

But while the panel did not question the £6 million figure mentioned, Mr Shovelton has since said the cost of scrapping the school is likely to be less.

Costly aspects of the closure are thought to include paying for new uniforms and travel for pupils forced to find other schools, and staff redundancies.

A number of teachers have been chosen to work at the school for the next year, and their redundancy pay-outs have been deferred.

But many staff were already given the chop last year as acting head teacher Elizabeth King struggled to bring the school’s financial hole under control.

Jon Whitcombe
Jon Whitcombe

Last month, it was revealed Kent County Council had spent £150,000 on new computer systems, laptops and iPads for the school - despite the fact the majority of pupils have already left.

The authority is planning to spend further funds on work to make the Spring Lane site safe for the remaining 136 pupils who will stay for one more year to finish their GCSEs – but would not say how much.

This is in addition to recent improvements to the school’s roof, which have cost £300,000.

It is not yet known what will happen to the 22-acre site once the school closes for good, but at least part of it is expected to be kept for educational

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