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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Wollaton school to expand after £4m funding bid success

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A Nottingham academy is celebrating after the City Council helped secure £4m to fund a proposal to expand by 450 places.

The Fernwood School, in Wollaton, has successfully applied for around £3m of funding through the Government’s Condition Improvement Fund (CIF), which allocates money to improve and expand school buildings.

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The bid, supported by an additional £1m Basic Needs Funding contribution from Nottingham City Council, is significant because of its value. The Department for Education’s maximum CIF allocation for a secondary school project is £4m – the minimum is £50,000.

Fernwood, which has current capacity for 1,050 pupils, will now undertake a wide-ranging consultation on the proposal to expand and, if approved, it will enable more pupils to access the school within the next few years.

It is an Ofsted Outstanding-rated school which is extremely popular and hugely over-subscribed. Close to 90% of parents in its catchment area make Fernwood their first preference when applying for a secondary place.

There is also a clear need for additional secondary capacity in Wollaton, and Fernwood is committed to providing more places for its feeder schools and the local community.

These include Fernwood Primary, which has recently expanded to increase its intake; Middleton Primary, which is currently being expanded; and Southwold Primary, which was expanded in 2014.

Tracy Rees, headteacher at The Fernwood School, said: “I’m thrilled that this bid has been successful and we can now press on with our plans to expand the school. Over the past three years there have been children in our catchment area who have not been able to secure a place at Fernwood. With this proposed expansion we shouldn’t have any more disappointed families.

“I’m very proud that Fernwood is recognised as an Outstanding school by Ofsted and I know how popular we are with parents, both inside and outside our catchment area. We want to be able to offer places at our school for as many pupils as possible.

“I’d like to thank Nottingham City Council for their support in applying for this grant, and for backing it with £1m towards the project. I would also like to thank CBP Architects for their support with planning this exciting development.”

The City Council has been planning since 2009 to increase school places and has invested more than £40m in expansion projects to boost capacity at Good and Outstanding-rated schools. The growth in pupil numbers is now beginning to impact on the secondary sector.

By the time all year groups are full, more than 5,000 places will have been created at 26 schools in Nottingham. Expansion projects are currently under way in Bilborough, Bestwood and Wollaton.

Councillor Sam Webster, Portfolio Holder for Business, Education and Skills at Nottingham City Council, said: “This is fantastic news. Fernwood was competing for funding with schools right across the country so for the bid to not only be successful, but for such a significant amount, just shows how important this expansion is.

“Our £1m contribution to the project again underlines our strategy of seeking to help Good and Outstanding-rated schools to expand where there is increasing demand.

“Unfortunately, the Government has removed the power for local authorities to build new schools to keep up with an ever-increasing need for places. Therefore we will continue to seek opportunities to expand current provision wherever possible.”

Councillor Webster continued: “Parents rightly expect good school places, close to home, and that’s what we’ve been working hard to deliver. I’m also proud that we have the highest proportion of Outstanding-rated schools in the East Midlands – more and more parents are choosing to send their children to our schools.

“Demand continues to increase in Nottingham but we’ve been working for almost a decade to provide additional places. Last week we saw that 97% of parents got their first or second-choice primary school, and that shows that our careful planning and investment was necessary and is working.”

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