The sale of school playing fields was a scandal throughout the 1980s and 1990s and up to the present day, but in most cases the outrage was the fact that it deprived children of the potential for exercise.
The story we report today is disappointing for that reason, but it’s also worrying that school assets are having to be used because of a row about how to fund a rebuilding programme.
King Richard School in Paulsgrove needs – and deserves – a revamp. As is common with buildings of its age, it has had problems with leaks and flooding, and it was good news when the government said it would stump up the £9m needed to build a new school, and knock down the current one.
However, it soon became apparent that rebuilding King Richard to its current size would be a false economy. Pupil numbers in Portsmouth are rising, as we have seen recently with the programme to provide more primary-school age places, and it does not take a genius to work out that in a few years’ time there will be pressure on secondary schools. And the rising numbers is a trend that is set to continue.
So why not, as the opportunity has arisen, rebuild the school to a 1,000-student capacity? It would seem stupid not to, particularly as bolting on extra classrooms to a school will never be as satisfactory as including them as part of the original design.
This situation is disappointing, but while it may seem churlish to be ungrateful for £9m, it remains the government’s – not a council’s – responsibility to provide secondary school places.
The council may well be licking its wounds over the Camber affair, in which it feels double-crossed – it says the government agreed to reimburse £1.4m clean-up costs to prepare for the arrival of Ben Ainslie Racing, while the government denied all knowledge of a deal. But leave politics aside, and here the most important thing is getting the right-sized school for pupils in the area. The price of this new school should not be losing some playing fields – and we hope the government will reconsider its position.