Clitheroe primary school plan explained

A new primary school could be set to be built in Clitheroe – but children will not be walking through its gates for more than four years.

Friday, 12th June 2020, 12:56 am
Updated Friday, 12th June 2020, 1:08 am

Lancashire County Council’s cabinet has agreed to launch an informal consultation into the creation of the facility as part of the major Higher Standen Farm housing development, to the south east of the town.

But that six-week process is just the first step on a long road to bringing the school into being.

Funding for the school – and a contribution towards the extra places created – has already been secured as part of a planning agreement for the 1,040-home estate.

Will potential free school sponsors be putting their hands up for the chance to deliver a new primary in Clitheroe?
Will potential free school sponsors be putting their hands up for the chance to deliver a new primary in Clitheroe?

However, government legislation means the presumption is that all new schools are so-called ‘free schools’, run by a sponsor.

The completion of the consultation will set in train a year-long search to identify a suitable free school operator before a brick can even be laid. If none can be found, a statutory completion could be held.

The education secretary has the final say over the sponsor, but County Hall can state its own preference based on a local assessment of the candidates.

Alternative routes to establishing the school include creating a so-called “voluntary-aided” facility, with either a faith or non-faith group. However, cabinet member for education, Phillippa Williamson, told a meeting of cabinet colleagues that no such applications were currently on the table.

She added; “There is strong support from Ribble Valley Borough Council and the estate landowner to build a new school at the earliest opportunity.

“The idea would be to create a one-form entry initially, but have the flexibility to expand further as this development moves into [later] phases.”

Papers presented to the meeting reveal that the initial capacity of the school would be 210 pupils, but with around three quarters of the Higher Standen Farm estate yet to be built, flexibility would be needed to ensure that the new facility continued to meet demand.

With the school not due to open until September 2024, it is thought that additional places may need to be provided temporarily at existing schools in the area during 2023.

Labour opposition group leader Azhar Ali wanted to know what the “fallback position” would be if no operator of the school could be identified.

County Cllr Williamson suggested that an alternative would be to explore permanent expansions elsewhere, while remaining in touch with faith groups to monitor their interest.

“There is no expectation that [the free school] route will not identify a suitable sponsor, but it’s something we’re going to work through,” she added.

Although not a legal requirement, it is recommended that a public meeting is held with any potential sponsors so that they can set out their stall to locals. However, that option would depend on any continuing Covid-19 safety measures