Councillors agree to contribute £2million towards school’s rebuilding programme

Sawtry Village Academy.

Sawtry Village Academy. Picture: GOOGLE. - Credit: Archant

Cambridgeshire County Council has agreed to contribute £2million towards the redevelopment of a secondary school.

Councillors on the children and young people committee gave the green light today (Tuesday) for the funds to be handed to Sawtry Village Academy to address what the school described as “serious health, safety and wellbeing issues resulting from the poor condition of the school buildings”.

The committee also agreed to support the school’s petition to the Department for Education and Education and Skills Funding Agency to improve the condition of existing school buildings and build a new teaching block at the same time.

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire County Council said: “Local authorities are not funded to address the condition of academy school buildings but we do have a responsibility for the health, safety and wellbeing of all children in the county.

“In this case serious failings in school leadership contributed in a major way to the poor condition of the school’s buildings, which is unacceptable.

“The council’s proposed investment would represents a significant contribution towards addressing the urgent need to improve the school accommodation in what are exceptional circumstances.”

Sawtry Village Academy launched its petition and campaign for Government support in September following the court case of its former principal James Stewart, 72, who pleaded guilty to six counts of fraud by abuse of position, amounting to about £100,000, and one count of misconduct in public office.

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He was jailed for four years.

Following Mr Stewart’s departure, Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust (CMAT) took over the governance of the school in January 2015.

Mark Woods, chief executive officer of CMAT, said: “We have come a long way but we cannot ignore the truth that the crimes and neglect of the school’s former leaders have put the long-term sustainability of the school at risk.

“For far too long, the academy’s students, staff and community have put up with shoddy buildings that are not fit for use. We have had great support from our local councillors and our MP – we need to help them to make our case to Cambridgeshire County Council and the Education Funding Agency by showing how strongly we feel that the academy has been neglected and that now is the time to put that right.”