Cost of revamping Leamington primary school shoots up by more than £2.6 million

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The overall bill for Kingsway Primary School is now set to hit £7.9 million

The cost of revamping facilities at a Leamington primary school has shot up by more than £2.6 million with Warwickshire County Council picking up the tab.

Kingsway Community Primary School, in Baker Avenue, received an inadequate Ofsted rating in 2017, resulting in an order for it to become an academy.

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Community Academies Trust is set to take it on but would not accept liabilities relating to the school hall, boiler room and kitchen or the county council-leased nursery and children and family centre.

Kingsway Primary School in Leamington. Photo courtesy of Google Maps.Kingsway Primary School in Leamington. Photo courtesy of Google Maps.
Kingsway Primary School in Leamington. Photo courtesy of Google Maps.

A £5.167 million project was approved in October 2020, which included £1.55 million from the Department for Education (DfE), but the development of an extended playground and fencing has added £460,000, while inflation has seen the bill increase by more than £2.1 million on top of the £100,000 added by the council in November 2022.

The overall bill is now set to hit £7.9 million and a bid by the trust for the DfE to contribute another £1.871 million was rejected, leaving the council to make up the shortfall.

Because the increase exceeds £2 million, the additional funding will have to go to full council for approval next week (Tuesday, July 25).

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Councillor Kam Kaur (Con, Bilton & Hillside), the county’s portfolio holder for education, told the cabinet – the team of Conservative councillors in charge of services: “This scheme would have gone through quite easily had we not had the impact of inflation.”

There was support for pushing ahead from independent member Councillor Judy Falp (Whitnash).

“I know the school and children’s centre well and it really needs to happen, particularly as it is going to be taken over by an academy,” she said.

“I fully understand why they are not going to take on the liability.”

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It follows on from a 40 per cent increase in the cost of rebuilding Bunting Preschool, Stratford-upon-Avon, and the approval of close to £5 million extra to see through three building or regeneration projects designed to improve school capacity across the county – one of which had more than doubled in cost – in March.

In order to address such problems, the cabinet last week also approved the use up to £1.4 million from an existing pot to do more work on costing education projects before setting budgets for them.

As things stand, budgets for such work are set at RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) stage one, when the project brief and feasibility studies are developed.

Moving forward, work up to stage three, including concept design, costing exercises and the architectural and engineering information required for planning, will be conducted before a budget is set.

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The work will initially be paid for out of the £1.4 million Education Capital Development Fund but, as is the case now, the costs are accounted for as part of the overall project with the fund then replenished for future projects.

Councillor Peter Butlin (Con, Admirals & Cawston), deputy leader, said: “It will delay the bringing forward of school schemes until we know what is in the ground, where we are with the architecture and pretty much how much it will cost.

“This avoids the business of continually coming back to full council for extra cash to complete projects.”

“It strikes me that this is a lesson learned from where we were with Oakley Grove School (Leamington) and we are putting this in place to stop that repeat exercise of revised amounts of money.”