High hopes for academy as council is set to raid coffers

A NEW academy school should go ahead with the county council set to make up a massive shortfall in Government funding.

The St Leonards Academy, which will be formed by the merger of Filsham Valley and The Grove had been told it would receive only a third of the £15 million it was expecting from the Department of Education, leading to serious questions over the future of the scheme.

But East Sussex County Council (ESCC) is expected to stump up nearly £12 million to make sure the project can go-ahead with a full refurbishment of the Filsham Valley site.

Professor Julian Crampton, vice chancellor of Brighton University, the scheme’s main sponsor, said he felt let down by the Government. He said: “I am extremely disappointed and surprised by the secretary of state’s decision not to fully fund The St Leonards Academy.

“The capital funding provided by the Government represents a significant shortfall and I know our disappointment will be shared by many others, including school governors, students, their families and school staff.

“The Hastings and St Leonards academies were always about the two academies operating in parallel and in unison, not just one, or separately, but while The Hastings Academy rebuild will be fully-funded, the Government’s decision now leaves the St Leonards rebuild project short of sufficient funds.

“The two academies will still open as planned but the decision, potentially, is extremely devisive.

But he added: “We are confident we are able to find ways of addressing these very real issues.”

In March it was announced that the Government would provide £40 million for the two schools, but this was reviewed when the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition took over in May. The Hastings Academy - replacing Hillcrest School - had its multi-million pound funding confirmed last year, but The St Leonards Academy money was up in the air until this week.

Amber Rudd MP said: “It is extraordinary to look at this as bad news for the Government. The money is coming from ESCC which received a larger capital grant than it expected, and the council is to be credited for making these provisions. I am sure the sponsors will move on from this disappointment.

“The important thing is the school is going to happen and it is a triumph for the education-led regeneration of the town. The Government has not let the town down in any way - this is a different financial world and Hastings continues to attract more support than other areas.”

But Cllr Jeremy Birch, the Labour leader of Hastings Borough Council, said: “To get the investment is obviously a huge benefit but we have been short-changed by the Government. The £7.8 million ESCC had put aside was meant to be shared between three academies - it will all go to one now and the extra £4 million could have been spent on capital projects across the county to fix classrooms or build new facilities.”

ESCC councillors will discuss the plans to fund the St Leonards Academy on Tuesday.