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New school plans on site of former Royal School for Deaf Children site in Margate ditched by Kent County Council

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Angered councillors have slammed a council's decision to ditch plans to build a new secondary school in east Kent.

After almost two years, Kent County Council's former leader, Cllr Paul Carter (Con) has reversed a decision to create a new education institution on the 14.7-acre former Royal School for Deaf Children site in Margate, which would have been a six-form academy with a roll of 690 pupils by September 2022.

The Royal School for Deaf Children closed in 2015
The Royal School for Deaf Children closed in 2015

Explaining the U-turn, Cllr Carter has said school rolls have not grown as forecast in Thanet, principally due to low rates of housing development, while financially it would mean the local authority could save at least £10.3m.

KCC's scrutiny committee chairman, Cllr Andy Booth (Con), was among several county councillors left angered by the lack of scrutiny over the decision, saying: "I am concerned that the fullest and considered consultation has not been undertaken. This is not what I would consider to be appropriate."

But Cllr Barry Lewis (Lab), who represents Margate at county level, said he supported Cllr Carter's decision, saying: "Having lived in the area for 40 years, I know the mood among residents is not for a new school.

"Thanet wants better existing ones."

The local education authority is now seeking to permanently expand Ursuline College in Westgate and King Ethelbert's School in Birchington.

New council leader, Roger Gough (Con) said his new administration is also hoping to permit a temporary expansion to Royal Harbour Academy in Ramsgate until 2024.

The former cabinet member for education said: "Last Thursday (Oct 17), the-then leader of Kent County Council approved a variation to the existing school place planning in Thanet.

"The decision effectively reversed a previous decision made by KCC to establish a new secondary school on the former Royal School for Deaf Children site in Margate, by terminating an academy presumption process published in November 2017."

A KCC report has recently been published explaining the decision of the former KCC leader.

Former county council leader Paul Carter
Former county council leader Paul Carter

Cllr Carter said in the report: "In my view, the proposed strategy presents the best case for improving educational outcomes for young people in Thanet."

The Maidstone councillor's decision was not considered by the children, young person and education (CYPE) cabinet committee due to the "urgency" of the matter, the KCC report adds.

Several councillors raised concerns about the lack of scrutiny made in the impromptu decision, including the leader of KCC's opposition, Cllr Rob Bird (Lib Dem), and member of CYPE, Cllr Trudy Dean (Lib Dem).

Cllr Bird said: "I accept that KCC may need to move quickly on this and that it may therefore be too late to go through the full process.

"Nonetheless, in this instance I do not see any pressing need for the decision to be taken without any formal scrutiny."

Cllr Dean said: "I have concerns that future relationships with the Department of Education may be undermined, with potential negative effects on other Kent projects."

A final verdict will be made in the near future by the Department for Education, which could reverse KCC's decision.

About 500 staff members lost their jobs when Margate's Royal Deaf School shut in 2015 after allegations of child abuse were made.

Read more: All the latest news from Thanet

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