Published: 06:00, 17 May 2021
One of Kent's biggest schools needs a new £1.5 million building to prevent children from having to be bussed out of town, its head teacher believes.
Herne Bay High principal Jon Boyes thinks the bespoke sixth-form block will help it meet soaring demand for non-selective places locally - and stop the comprehensive from "bursting at the seams".
This comes as the school readies itself for its largest-ever sixth-form cohort in September, while it will once again be about 25 pupils above its published admission number (Pan) of 258.
“We are bursting at the seams now on this site,” Mr Boyes explained.
“We’re massively oversubscribed and hugely popular, but we can’t meet the needs of the community. What would be fantastic is to have a bespoke sixth-form centre.
“It’ll support the needs of the Herne Bay community for the coming years. You’re probably looking at £1.5 million for it.”
Latest Kent County Council (KCC) documents show the authority is aiming to expand the comprehensive’s capacity by 45 pupils in eight years’ time.
The authority states the work is needed “to support the predicted growth in demand as a result of new housing developments” - totalling more than 2,500 homes - in the town.
But Mr Boyes says KCC wants to create extra room within the school by converting unused spaces on the site into classrooms.
“There’s been a feasibility study done by KCC and some surveying, but nothing’s happened over the last 12 months because of Covid,” he said.
“The feasibility study was to try to create more classroom space with some jiggery pokery around the school - but that’s a short-term fix and that’s not really the right thing.
“If somebody could find me the money to build a sixth-form block then I’d be able to rearrange the school slightly. We’re not getting the support in terms of our actual space.”
"We’re massively oversubscribed and hugely popular, but we can’t meet the needs of the community..."
Meanwhile, the new £20 million Barton Manor School in Canterbury is to start welcoming Year 7 pupils in September.
Mr Boyes expects the facility, and other city comprehensives, to absorb the pupils from the coast who were unable to secure a place at Herne Bay High.
“All the capacity for the next five years is coming from schools in Canterbury,” he added.
"Children from Herne Bay will spend two hours travelling to and from the city.
“I would love to be able to welcome any child in the town who wants to come here and give them a cracking education.”
A KCC spokeswoman insists the authority recognises there will be a need for more places in the Canterbury Coastal area and that it is working "to find the best solutions within the budgets available".
“The government’s decision to build Barton Manor was based primarily on anticipated demand from proposed housing developments in the city," she added.
“If another school, such as Herne Bay High, in the area were to be expanded before the homes are built, it could risk the viability of one or possibly two others in the district.”