Councillor Peter Butlin (Deputy Leader) moved the recommendation as set out in the report. Councillor Kam Kaur seconded the recommendation and reserved the right to speak.
Councillor Tracey Drew noted media reports about potential school closures due to the heatwave taking place at the time of the meeting and expressed the opinion that schools should be built to the highest standards possible to ensure that they were future proofed against the need to close during thermal weather incidents which would be detrimental to pupils’ education.
Councillor Bill Gifford expressed the view that it was important to support and work with schools, like Trinity Roman Catholic School, which were undersubscribed but improving after changes to management, to ensure that they remained viable, rather than resort to building new schools.
Councillor Judy Falp shared her disappointment at the delay to the opening of Oakley Grove School.
Councillor John Holland raised concerns regarding the siting of the Oakley Grove School and the poor accessibility of the site together with the additional costs that were being incurred during the building works. He sought a discussion on how an inquiry into the development could be instigated to establish lessons learnt and how the best education for students could be secured.
Councillor Jonathan Chilvers raised concern regarding the additional funding requested, and the knock-on effect this would have for other projects. He welcomed the building of Oakley Grove and Shipston Schools to 2022 Regulations, viewing building to a higher standard as an investment that would result in lower fuel bills. However, he lamented the lack of a mechanism to share the proceeds of investment.
Councillor Sarah Boad praised the usefulness of the now obsolete Area Committees as useful forums to share information. She commented on the need to ensure school places were available to support new housing developments as they came to fruition, and she considered that this needed to be pre-empted and places available so that children could go to school close to home. She also supported previous comments that it was crucial for schools to be built fit for purpose so that children’s education did not suffer because of thermal weather events.
Councillor Robert Tromans welcomed the report and expressed his hope that the report would be the first of a series that would bring forward projects in other areas of the county.
Councillor Jan Matecki similarly welcomed the report and commented on the setting of the Oakley Grove site in relation to improved walkways, cycleways and the location of the country park which reduced the need for motorised travel on school journeys.
Councillor Kam Kaur noted that existence of the capital programme to ensure that the Council could meet its statutory duty to provide school places and that work was underway to set up and build a new sufficiency strategy for the period 2023 to 2035 onwards. This would also include new provisions and expansions discussed with the district and borough council through the local planning process. It was important to sustain and grow existing schools to make them more sustainable.
Councillor Peter Butlin noted the impact of inflation on budgets and the need for wise management of funds. The Council was building schools above minimum regulations – at Oakley Grove building to new regulatory standards was adding £2.5m to the overall cost. However, he considered that the right balance had been reached and in terms of building to a higher standard, there was no recourse to claw back any investments. He stated that he had not previously accepted that there should be an inquiry into the delivery of Oakley Grove School but had suggested that issues be raised with Warwick District Council which had allocated the site which he did not consider as being poor in terms of accessibility.
Upon being put to the vote, the motion was carried by a majority.
That Council agrees:
1. To increase the Capital Programme allocation for Oakley Grove Allthrough School by £6.000 million to £56.150 million to be funded from Department for Education Grant.
2. To increase the Capital Programme allocation from Stratford-upon-Avon High School by £2.2 million to £13.773 to be funded from the Department for Education grant
3. To add the scheme at Shipston High School set out at paragraph 3 of the report at a cost of £10.532 million funded by £10.023 million from the Department for Education grant and £0.509 million from developer contributions