Crumbling school gets £12m rebuild grant at long last

Roxanne Vines

NEWS OPINION: ‘No matter how brilliant she is, there is just no excuse’

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A SCHOOL desperately in need of repair has finally been awarded millions in cash.

The Department for Education yesterday confirmed that King Richard School in Paulsgrove will receive £12m.

The cash comes two years after a £21m bid by the school became a casualty of spending cuts when the government axed Labour’s Building Schools for the Future programme.

The money will be used to bulldoze the school’s current building and replace it with a 50-classroom two-storey facility fit for the 21st century.

It is a welcome piece of news for school leaders who are throwing at least £200,000 a year of their budget on basic maintenance repairs including heating, damp and air conditioning.

Last summer they had to fork out half a million pounds to fix a collapsed roof, broken pipes and flooding.

Executive head Brian McClarin said: ‘It’s a pleasant surprise. I was starting to believe because the money was fairly limited, King Richard would not be getting anything. This investment signals to our children that education is important after all. The new building can’t come too soon. When I retire next year I would love to be able to hand over the keys to a brand new school the students and the community deserves.

‘But we’ve been here before and I’m not getting anyone’s hopes up. I’m not going out onto the estate and saying we are getting a new school. I will begin to celebrate when the bulldozers turn up.’

King Richard is one of 261 schools that has been approved, out of 587 applications for funding in the aftermath of the axed Building Schools for the Future.

The original £21m bid, which included state-of-the-art sports and leisure facilities to be open to all, was cancelled just weeks before the deal was sealed.

The current Priority School Building Programme bid is modest in comparison.

But Mr McClarin said he would continue to fight for better community facilities.

‘This investment will save us a lot of money which goes on fixing the air conditioning, heating, keeping building dry, and means we can spend more on staff,’ he said.

‘But it doesn’t solve the problem of the complete lack of facilities on the estate. The people in Paulsgrove and Wymering have been treated appallingly by the local authority who have shown a total lack of interest.

‘Even if Portsmouth doesn’t appear to care we do.’

A Department for Education spokesman said the school would be contacted soon to set plans in motion.

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