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New hope for Attleborough special school

PUBLISHED: 12:00 07 October 2009 | UPDATED: 15:09 14 July 2010

Chapel Road Special School

Chapel Road Special School

Sarah Brealey

By STEVE DOWNES, Education correspondent

A Norfolk special school that was controversially dropped from a bid for government rebuilding cash has targeted three high schools as potential sites for a new building after a "change of attitude" from education chiefs.

A Norfolk special school that was controversially dropped from a bid for government rebuilding cash has targeted three high schools as potential sites for a new building after a "change of attitude" from education chiefs.

Chapel Road Special School in Attleborough was removed from the first group of schools bidding for a share of £80m of Building Schools for the Future (BSF) cash because it was not "shovel ready".

The decision prompted strong criticism of Norfolk County Council, which was accused of failing to move quickly to find a site for the long-awaited rebuild of the over-subscribed school.

The council said it was down to the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), which had changed the rules and left the council with no alternative if it wanted to maximise its chances of getting the money. But since the school's plight was revealed in the EDP last month, headteacher Karin Heap said things had begun to move.

A meeting was held within a week of the story breaking with children's services director Lisa Christensen and other council representatives. Another meeting is scheduled for October 12.

Mrs Heap said: "It was a constructive meeting the week after it was in the paper. We have some reassurances that the feasibility study will be started. Our concern was that until we've identified a site, we will not get anywhere.

"There's now a meeting planned for October 12. The council has committed to sit down and see what impact this has on the special educational needs strategy. It is reassuring that this is not going to grind to a halt."

She added that the aim was to rebuild the school on the site of one of the neighbouring high schools - Attleborough High, Old Buckenham High or Wymondham College - all of which worked closely with Chapel Road already.

"I want a feasibility study completed by January. I'm quite positive that we will get it. I think there's been a change of attitude. We had to jump up and down to get this far, though, and if nothing happens quickly then the parents will go and ask questions at council meetings."

The race for a share of the £55bn BSF pot, set aside to rebuild or revamp every English state high and special school, has become more desperate in recent months, amid fears of funding cuts because of massive government debts.

Norfolk's submission for rebuild and refurbishment money in the next wave is likely to be decided by early November. It includes:

100pc rebuild at The Park High, King's Lynn.

70pc rebuild/20pc refurbishment at Costessey High, near Norwich.

70pc rebuild/30pc refurbishment at Marshland High, West Walton.

55pc new build at Yarmouth High.

30pc refurbishment at Sewell Park College, Norwich.

ICT work at Taverham High.

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