Major changes planned for several Burnley schools and Burnley Campus
Several schools in Burnley will increase the number of pupils they admit in order to bridge an expected shortfall in places in the town.
Lancashire County Council’s cabinet approved the changes - most of which will be temporary - along with a reallocation of space at Burnley Campus following the closure of Thomas Whitham Sixth Form last August.
Some of the schools’ facilities will also be upgraded so that they can accommodate the extra numbers.
Blessed Trinity Roman Catholic College will up its year 7 intake by 30 pupils to 280 for one year only this September. The Ormerod Road academy will convert one of its classrooms to an additional ICT teaching room as part of the change.
Burnley High School has also agreed to increase its new admissions for the next academic year only, from 120 to 130. Five class spaces will be renovated at its Byron Street site, including the conversion of an open plan area currently set up as sixth form seminar rooms, which is no longer needed.
It is forecast that there would have been a shortfall of 17 secondary school places in Burnley in 2021/22, with migration into the town likely to widen the gap further.
County council cabinet member for schools Phillippa Williamson told a meeting of cabinet colleagues that the expansion plans were “sensible, achievable solutions” to address a shortage which arose after the closure of Hameldon Community College in 2019.
There is also a one-year projected shortfall in primary school places on the horizon, which will be met by increasing the intake of Barden Primary School by 30 for 2021/22 only.
That move will form part of the wider reconfiguration of Burnley Campus, where the school is based - along with three others and a range of community facilities.
Part of the plot formerly occupied by Thomas Whitham Sixth Form will be revamped to allow Barden also to develop a special needs unit.
Reedley Hallows Nursery School will relocate to the currently vacant site from its existing location on the campus, together with Reedley Hallows Children and Family Wellbeing Service.
The space they leave behind will be allocated to Holly Grove Special School to enable it to expand its pupil numbers at some point in the future, subject to further approval from the cabinet.
Cabinet members heard that as the campus development had been built under the private finance initiative (PFI), the alteration work required was likely to cost more than would have otherwise been the case.
PFI schemes involve the private sector funding, building and operating public sector facilities and leasing them back over several decades in order to repay their initial cost. However, charges are also levied for servicing the buildings and undertaking changes like those now approved for the Burnley Campus.
County council leader Geoff Driver described it as “the most expensive form of borrowing known to man”.
“But it is what it is,” he added.
The cost of the changes was discussed in a private part of the meeting.
Around a quarter of the former Thomas Whitham building will be repurposed under the plans, with proposals for the remainder to be brought forward at a later date.