Greater Manchester town with no high school will have to wait even longer for new academy

There is currently no high school in the town and the Star Academies project is seen as a key element in the regeneration of Radcliffe.
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A long-awaited high school for Radcliffe will not be built in time for its scheduled opening in 2024.

The Department for Education (DfE) has approved education provider Star Academies to establish the new school on Spring Lane, with a target of welcoming students from the town from September next year. But Bury Council has revealed that the DfE has experienced ‘significant challenges’ in delivering its school building programme, with a number of free schools now delayed.

The DfE has confirmed that because of inflationary pressures, it was unable to accept the tender which would have built the school by the summer of 2024 and intends to re-procure the scheme.

This would delay completion of the project beyond the 2024 opening date. There is currently no high school in the town and the project is seen as a key element in the regeneration of Radcliffe.

In a report to the council Radcliffe regeneration cabinet, Paul Cooke, strategic lead for education in the borough, said: “The council has responsibility to provide the site for the new school and because of the importance of the new school to Radcliffe, has taken a pro-active role to remove barriers to delivery of the construction project.

“The council has consistently set out the need for the new school to open in September 2024. Both Star and DfE have committed to working to this time frame.

“The DfE is responsible for the design and delivery of the new school building. It is now clear that DfE has experienced some significant challenges in delivering its school building programme.”

The site intended for the new Radcliffe high school Credit: Google MapsThe site intended for the new Radcliffe high school Credit: Google Maps
The site intended for the new Radcliffe high school Credit: Google Maps

Temporary site plans

The council said it was now developing a plan for Star Academy to open the school in temporary accommodation while the new buildings are awaited.

Mr Cooke said: “While these delays mean that it will not be possible to open the school in September 2024 in its new building, the council has reiterated the importance of the school being available to admit its first cohort of students in 2024.

“This can be achieved through the provision of a temporary solution that can accommodate students from September, until the permanent build is complete.

“The DfE has been asked to commit to the school opening in 2024 so that Star can plan now to have a presence in Radcliffe in advance of 2024, working with our primary school leaders to develop pathways and the curriculum, and to begin engagement with families about transition from primary.

“Without a clear commitment to the new secondary school opening in 2024 there will remain gaps, and opportunities will be missed for a further cohort of children and young people.

“The council has been acutely aware, even before the current procurement difficulties, that the project time-scales for delivery of the new school by September 2024 were challenging, and therefore has consistently pressed the DfE to consider the implications of delay.

“Star has confirmed its commitment to September 2024 opening with the use of temporary accommodation in this way.”

Coun Mike Smith is the leader of Radcliffe First, who have eight councillors representing the town.

He said: “The latest information we have is that it will open in 2024 in temporary accommodation and it’s likely to be at least early 2025 until it’s built.

“Temporary accommodation is not what the people of Radcliffe or Bury Council want.

“It’s extremely disappointing but when they school arrives we’ll be glad to have one in the town.

“The reason given is inflationary pressures but what is the cost going to be of temporary buildings against the gap in the budget that the contractor and DfE have got?

“Are they going to get it cheaper? We’ve got inflation running at 10 %.”