Council's decision to create hundreds of extra pupil places at Kettering Science Academy is questioned

Kettering Science Academy will be having a new 8m extension built.
Kettering Science Academy will be having a new 8m extension built.

A Kettering councillor has questioned whether Kettering Science Academy should be given £8m for a new extension to take in hundreds more pupils as planned.

Speaking at the Northamptonshire County Council cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Cllr Eileen Hales said she had concerns that the school, which is graded as requires improvement by Ofsted, is the right place for the county council to be increasing pupil numbers.

The county authority is spending £8.2m on an extension for the school, which will see its numbers rise by 300 with an extra 60 pupils per age group. The new extension will consist of a separate three-storey building and will house 16 classrooms, a dining and common room, library and ICT facilities. The school is run by the Brooke Weston Trust.

The county authority is also spending £4m on an extension at Kettering’s Southfield School. The improvements are part of plans to increase the number of school places in the town after an ‘unprecedented demand’ in the town has meant that Year 7 and Year 8 places across all Kettering schools are at full capacity.

Cllr Hales, who represents the Windmill Ward in Kettering, said: “I have got concerns around extra money going into KSA when you look at Ofsted.

“When you look at their reports you have to go back to 2011 when it was satisfactory – the last three have been needing improvement. They had a monitoring report that was done in December and they have still got concerns there around the quality of teaching in the school, there is a vast turnover of agency staff and there is also a big worrying thing about the funding to disadvantaged children and especially those with SEND and the number of children that have been excluded.”

Cllr Fiona Baker, the cabinet member for the children’s services, said: “There is a big need in the Kettering area to provide places for secondary school children. We are putting forward a plan of assistance for the school to improve them.”

In a later response to Cllr Hales’ comment Dr Andrew Campbell, CEO of the Brooke Weston Trust, said: ‘We are proud of the progress that is being made at Kettering Science Academy, which is an ambitious and rapidly evolving school. Its significantly improved Progress 8 score last year placed it as the third most improved school in Northamptonshire, demonstrating that strategies put in place are yielding positive results. We are looking forward to working in close collaboration with Northants County Council and other schools in the town to expand numbers on roll and secure a bright future for local students.”

Almost all of the money from the extension is coming from the Basic Needs Grant – money given to local authorities to create new school places. A scheme was also looked at to increase the capacity at Kettering Buccleuch Academy and this may come forward at a later date.

A report considered by the cabinet made clear the extensions were being proposed for financial reasons.

It said: “Alternative options considered included the construction of a new secondary school in Kettering. However, the latest demographic data indicates that although additional capacity is required, this can be met through provision of additional capacity at existing secondary schools in the town rather than a new school. This represents a cost-effective solution compared to that of a brand new school.”

A consultation is being carried out by NCC and will survey opinion from parents, other schools and the council. Regional schools commissioner for the area Martin Post will make the final decision about whether to approve the increased admission numbers for the tow schools.