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Schools Minister to meet Sir Bob

November 1, 2012 11:15 AM

Schools Minister, the Rt Hon. David Laws MP, will be meeting Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell on Monday evening at a quickly arranged meeting at the House of Commons. They will discuss whether a financial formula can be found whereby Alderman Blaxill School can be kept within the town's secondary school arrangements during the three or four years when the number of children in the 11 to 16 age group is not sufficient to fill all the places across the borough.

Current proposals are that Alderman Blaxill School will shut - but Sir Bob has warned that if the premises are taken permanently out of the system then there will be a critical shortage of secondary school places in a few years' time.

The meeting follows a question which Sir Bob put during Education Questions on Monday this week, causing Mr Laws to offer to meet him "to discuss whether there is some way that we can support his understandable desire to make sure that there is capacity for future children."

Sir Bob told the Commons that he assumed "forwarding thinking and value for money are part of the Department for Education's thinking", adding "that it would be silly to remove permanently surplus places in secondary education when it is known that youngsters coming through the system will need those places in three or four years' time."

Responding, Mr Laws said that he was aware of Sir Bob's concerns and offered to meet him to see what could be achieved.

Welcoming the Minister's quick response for a meeting, Sir Bob said that he was "seeking to square the circle" of funding complications between revenue expenditure on retaining empty classrooms on the one hand with, on the other hand, the huge capital cost of building new classrooms a few years later when the number of children of secondary school age goes up again.

It is known that the number of children in infant and primary schools, plus those yet to reach school age, is such that if Alderman Blaxill School is taken permanently out of secondary school availability then there will be a serious shortage of places in a few years' time.

Liberal Democrat Sir Bob said: "We have to find a common-sense resolution which will enable the Alderman Blaxill site, if not by that time, to be kept available - preferably in some form of use - for when the time comes, and everyone knows it will not be that many years, when we will need that accommodation."