Planning and negotiations for a new Saddleworth School are advancing as part of the Government’s Priority Schools Building Programme.
Saddleworth has been allocated funding within a phase whereby construction would begin in Easter 2014 – with the new school set to open in Autumn 2015. Oldham Council and Saddleworth School are working in partnership on this with the Education Funding Agency (EFA), which is managing the project for the Department for Education.
The EFA has been clear that there is a finite amount of money available for this project. That is calculated on the basis of the new school having 1,500 pupils – an expansion from the current pupil capacity of 1,350. All parties have been looking at viable site options with the aim of delivering a new, fit for purpose school – and also a facility that the whole community can be proud of and use.
A number of Council and privately-owned sites have been assessed against strict planning, access, engineering and timeframe criteria. The preferred location cannot be identified while confidential commercial negotiations are ongoing.
The EFA has already been tendering for a contractor for the ‘North West 3’ group of school projects, including this scheme. This process has now shortlisted two bidders with the successful applicant set to be appointed by the end of October. The successful contractor would then agree a programme of works and it is anticipated they would start work on the new site no later than Autumn 2014.
Oldham Council, Saddleworth School, Saddleworth Parish Council and the EFA are currently working as hard as they can to conclude negotiations that will enable them to confirm the location of the preferred site. A consultation would then take place. This would allow pupils, parents, the local community and partner agencies to have their say on issues relating to a new school being built on the proposed site before any planning application is submitted.
Councillor Amanda Chadderton, Cabinet Member for Education, Employment and Skills, said: “Oldham Council is 100 per cent committed to working co-operatively with the EFA and Saddleworth School to deliver a new site. In doing so we must balance many factors including the needs of pupils, parents, staff and the local community alongside a need to deliver within a tight funding deadline. We are keeping in close contact with the school’s management and governors, plus local ward members and Saddleworth Parish Council, and will reveal more publicly about the plans as soon as we are permitted to do so.”
Matthew Milburn, Head Teacher at Saddleworth School, said: “It’s only natural that people want to know the location of the new school and we’re working hard alongside the Council and the EFA to agree on the optimum site. In the meantime, it’s important that we reassure pupils and parents that there will be no disruption to learning. Results gained by the Year 11 group that have just left were the best the school has ever seen and we will continue to develop and improve while construction work takes place. We are all excited by the prospect of working in a new school, with space and facilities specifically designed to enrich learning.”