Councillor says plan for new secondary school could have ‘adverse impact’ on other schools in the area

Cllr Peter Downes

Cllr Peter Downes - Credit: Archant

A proposed new secondary school for Godmanchester is not needed and would have an adverse impact on other schools, a county councillor has warned.

Councillor Peter Downes, former head teacher at Hinchingbrooke School in Huntingdon, does not believe that the Godmanchester Secondary Academy would be economically viable because of its small size.

The school, being planned by Cambridgeshire Educational Trust, which runs Chesterton Community College, in Cambridge, would be for between 600 and 750 pupils aged 11-16.

Earlier this year the Department for Education (DFE) approved the school - which does not have a site - under the free school system.

But Cllr Downes said a small secondary school would not be educationally or economically viable.

He felt that a secondary school would need to be double the proposed size with 1,200 pupils to make it feasible and there would not be enough children from the catchment area to achieve that.

“I can see why having a new school would be attractive to parents without thinking what the implications are,” Cllr Downes said. “My concern is that Godmanchester for many, many years will not produce enough children to provide a viable school. My argument is there is no educational case for another school in Godmanchester. There might be in five to 10 years down the line, who knows?

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“What you would end up with is three schools, none of which would be functioning at optimal viability.”

Cllr Downes said smaller schools would not be in a position to provide facilities like workshops and music which larger schools could.

He said he wanted to highlight some of the issues involved in building a new school.

Cllr Downes said that, at present, about 400 children from Godmanchester went to Hinchingbrooke School and losing them would have a significant impact on that school.

A small number went to St Peter’s which already had the capacity to absorb more students.

He said that a further secondary school to be built at the Alconbury Weald development close to Huntingdon would also have an impact on schools in the town.

Godmanchester Town Council is worried that if a site for a school was identified by the DfE it could lead to more development in an already expanding town.

Cambridgeshire Educational Trust is in the process of holding consultations with residents over the scheme.