MP hits the roof in protest as Todmorden High misses out on rebuild cash

Conservative MP Craig Whittaker on the roof of Todmorden High School
Conservative MP Craig Whittaker on the roof of Todmorden High School

An MP took to the “rotting” roof of a high school to show his anger at the Government’s decision to snub a funding bid to fix its crumbling buildings.

Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker led campaigners around Todmorden High School this week to show the deterioration of the facilities at the school, after it was announced that it had missed out on much-needed rebuild funding in the £2 billion Priority Schools Building Programme 2 (PSBP2).

The school, which spends around £250,000 a year temporarily fixing problems including mould, leaking ceilings and damp walls, didn’t qualify for funding under the old Building Schools for the Future programme, as the need for a rebuild was based on criteria which included exam results and social deprivation.

Now, under the new system every school in England is surveyed and funding priority is given to schools in the worst state of dilapidation and the highest demand for school places.

However, despite calls from the community for the school to be refurbished, Todmorden High School missed out for the second time when funding for more than 270 schools was announced by the Government.

Conservative MP Mr Whittaker said: “The roofs are rotting to bits and these are the conditions that our young people in the school have to put up with on a daily basis.

“The school have spent years and years painting over the problems to try keep the water out but as you can see from around the school there are lots of areas where they are just losing the battle to keep the water out.

“The big problem for us is that the local authority has allocated £5 million towards the building project. The Government’s argument now is that if you spend £5 million on the school, it won’t need a rebuild. With all the good intentions of the local authority, it has actually worked against us.

“I am not going to rest until someone listens and comes back and resurveys the school. The surveys haven’t been robust enough and Todmorden has missed out as a consequence.”

Mr Whittaker said the school should have been rebuilt 30 years ago and added that now is the time to get the money for the school.

He was due to meet with Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss this issue yesterday.

Andrew Whitaker, headteacher of Todmorden High School, said: “Todmorden High School has been on a transformational journey which has seen the school move from the bottom five per cent to the top third of schools nationally over the last two years. This is a remarkable achievement and the school continues to go from strength to strength. Our students are rightly proud to be part of a vibrant and exciting community where every child, regardless of their background makes exceptional rates of progress.

“The school are bitterly disappointed with regards to the news that we will not receive any capital funding as part of the Priority School Building Programme. Despite this news, we are fully committed to ensuring that we become an outstanding school. We do not allow the state of our buildings to sideline us from the ultimate goal.

“Obviously our buildings are in desperate need of replacement as we try to deliver a high quality and innovative 21st century curriculum with 1970s facilities. It is an absolute injustice that our exceptional student body do not have the very best environment in which to learn.

“We therefore remain hopeful that with the support of key decision makers within the Department for Education and the coalition Government that the decision can be reconsidered.”

The announcement also saw Calder High School miss out on funding for its own dilapidated school.

Calderdale councillor Susan Press (Lab, Tod) said Todmorden High would have received cash under Labour’s system and the money set aside by the council would mean new buildings would be invested in.

“Having cancelled the Building Schools For The Future funding Todmorden High School and Calder High were to receive under the previous Labour Government, the Tories and Liberal Democrat Coalition now deliver this double blow to the Upper Valley despite years of promises and pledges from our local MP,” she said.

“Calderdale MBC is still committed to honouring Labour’s policy of investing over £7 million in new buildings for Todmorden High and a new primary school at Ferney Lee, but this decision is an outrage which will disappoint and anger thousands of parents, pupils and staff.”

Coun Janet Battye (Lib Dem) said: “Calderdale Council has done what it can, within its means, to repair and maintain the school buildings. It’s putting its own money into building a new classroom block at Todmorden High School but this isn’t enough. So, it’s really disappointing that we’re knocked back by yet another new funding stream.”

Josh Fenton-Glynn, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for the Calder Valley, said: “Like many people I am bitterly disappointed that the Tory-led government has so utterly failed the students of Todmorden and Calder High school.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “As part of our long term economic plan, we have continued to invest in school buildings. Under this Government £18 billion has been invested in the school estate, on top of the new funding being announced. Alongside announcing the schools to be included in PSBP2, we are also announcing school condition allocations for the next three years. 
“These allocations reflect the condition of school buildings; meaning those schools in who missed out on PSBP2 can be confident their needs will be reflected in the funding we make available to their local authority, trust or Virtual Assistant partnership.”