East Devon’s MP, Sir Hugo Swire, has said he is ‘absolutely delighted’ that the Secretary of State for Education has agreed to contribute up to £750K towards the relocation of Tipton St John Primary School to Ottery St Mary.
Sir Hugo has been working closely with both Devon County Council (DCC), Tipton St John Primary School and the local diocesan board to establish a solution to the flooding problems which have regularly beset the school.
For demographic and financial reasons, the school and DCC decided to pursue the option of moving the school to Ottery St Mary. However, even with its existing funding from the Department for Education, DCC were unable to afford the move without extra financial support from the Government.
Sir Hugo took the case for extra funding directly to the top, questioning the Education Minister, Nick Gibb, in Parliament and holding a meeting with the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening. The MP also took the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, Sir James Bevan, to the school so that he was able to survey the problems himself.
Following this, the Department for Education announced that it would contribute extra funding on Wednesday 8 February 2017.
Moving forward, a site will have to be confirmed in Ottery and a paper will be submitted to the DCC cabinet after the county elections in May.
Commenting, Sir Hugo Swire MP said:
‘I have been relentlessly lobbying education ministers and making the case for extra funding so I am absolutely delighted with this outcome. Extracting additional funding from government departments is never easy and there were times when I thought all the effort might be in vain.
‘This has been a real team effort and I congratulate all those from the school, Devon County Council and the diocesan board for all they have done to achieve this excellent result. However, this project is in its early stages and there is still a lot of hard work to come.
‘The Environment Agency has stated that at present the flood risk at the school is so high that there is a risk to life. Most importantly, relocating the school to Ottery St Mary will take the school’s pupils and staff out of danger.
‘On top of this, a brand new primary school in Ottery is great news for families in the town as well as Tipton St John and the surrounding villages. The population of Ottery is rising and this new school will help to ensure that the local education system is able to cope with the growing numbers.
‘Tipton St John Primary is a fantastic school and it is important to emphasise that the school is moving, not closing. Everything from the staff to the school’s ethos will remain broadly the same which I think most parents will welcome’.
Devon's Cabinet member for schools, Cllr James McInnes, said:
‘This is excellent news. The county council is working closely with the Diocese of Exeter on putting together a funding package to allow the re-location of Tipton St John primary.
‘We met the Department for Education last year thanks to Sir Hugo Swire's intervention and support. I believe their unprecedented decision to unlock these extra funds demonstrates the strength of the case for re-location that we all made.’
The Head Teacher of Tipton St John Primary School, Colin Butler, commented:
‘For many years the problems of flooding have led to a growing concern about safety and an increased challenge as to how we can deliver an education fit for the 21st Century if we are to remain in damp, cramped buildings.
‘My reaction to the news that some funding had been secured from the DFE was tremendous excitement and huge relief. It has been a long journey, but hopefully soon we can hang up our wellington boots and sleep soundly when it is raining heavily’.