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Building blow for Attleborough school

PUBLISHED: 15:33 08 July 2010 | UPDATED: 15:27 14 July 2010

Stephanie Brooks

A popular specialist school's dream to move to a larger site has been dashed once again after government funding for the project was pulled.

The scrapping of the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme this week, which had allocated £700m for new school buildings across Norfolk, means plans to build a replacement complex for Chapel Road School, in Attleborough, have gone back to the drawing board.

A popular specialist school's dream to move to a larger site has been dashed once again after government funding for the project was pulled.

The scrapping of the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme this week, which had allocated £700m for new school buildings across Norfolk, means plans to build a replacement complex for Chapel Road School, in Attleborough, have gone back to the drawing board.

It was a bittersweet week for the school which celebrated its 50th birthday yesterday with a special cake cut by past and present headteachers and pupils dressing to represent each decade.

Headteacher Karin Heap said it was the closest in a 28-year campaign that the school had ever come to getting a new building, having had two previous knock-backs.

“My main message is OK there's no money but the need is not changing and there is a collective responsibility for something to be done. It's one of the best specialist schools and it's in a state which is an embarrassment,” she said.

The school, which teaches three to 19-year-olds with complex education needs, can only take on up to 63 pupils but has scores of parents knocking at its door wanting their children to be enrolled.

Mrs Heap said even with the limited number of pupils the school admits, the children's needs are becoming more complex and there's not enough space for the equipment they need or room for teachers to provide some elements of the required curriculum.

To compensate for this, children in secondary school years have to be bussed daily to surrounding schools in Attleborough, Wymondham and Old Buckenham to ensure they get the education they need.

Mrs Heap added that a survey undertaken about four years ago showed that about 200 specialist school places were needed in the area - a number which continues to grow.

But despite the school's worsening situation, it had to fight for its place on the BSF list in the first place.

It was temporarily taken off the list of top priority schools in September because the scheme was not deemed 'shovel ready' but was reinstated earlier this year following protests from staff and parents.

According to Mrs Heap, plans for the new school were being drawn up and a public consultation into the move was soon to take place.

She said: “We've been through these desperate negotiations from being on the BSF list, then off it, then being back on it and now it's gone. This rollercoaster ride is not ending. We're very, very disappointed. Staff morale is quite low. There were no negotiations before the announcement and that's what hurts.”

Education secretary Michael Gove, who pulled the plug on the BSF in parliament on Monday, said the funding initiative had been “characterised by massive overspends, tragic delays, botched construction projects and needless bureaucracy”, while shadow education secretary Ed Balls called the announcement “shameful” and said the move was a “damning indictment” on the Tory-Liberal coalition.

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