Over Budget Spending on School Classrooms Slammed

£1.65million extra needed to upgrade temporary facilities at East Sheen Primary

East Sheen Primary School
East Sheen Primary School. Picture: Google Streetview

Plans to spend almost £3 million making temporary classrooms at a popular local primary school permanent have been slammed while other schools are “struggling for numbers”. Richmond Council has approved an extra £1.65 million for the project at the “oversubscribed” East Sheen Primary School years after it expanded, meaning it will now cost £2.95 million.

Richmond Council’s education committee heard on Monday (5 September) that the school, in Upper Richmond Road, used old buildings to expand from a two to a three-form entry in 2015 which are now “rotten”. The committee approved plans in February 2021 to spend £1.3 million on replacing the temporary classrooms with permanent buildings.

But Charles Booth, head of construction and projects, said there had been “very large” construction cost increases due to instability and inflation from Brexit, Covid shutdowns and the Ukraine war. Council documents say the extra £1.65 million is needed as the works “cannot be delayed”.

Lib Dem councillor Jo Humphreys said she was struggling to see how the authority could justify the extra cash when other Richmond primary schools are facing money problems “because they’ve perhaps not even got a full 30 in a class”. She said the places could possibly “be met elsewhere for no extra cost”.

She added, “I appreciate parental choice but sometimes we might need to make the more difficult decisions both from a financial perspective but also from the financial health of other schools. If we don’t need a school to be a three-form entry school how do we justify spending a further £1.65 million having them continue to be a three-form entry school?”

Lib Dem councillor Michael Wilson said, “That additional money means that we’re not spending it elsewhere so it’s the choice of the local authority to do that.”

Matthew Paul, associate director of school place planning, said slashing the school’s numbers would be “very unpopular” with local parents. He said: “If we were to propose it as a council I’m sure you would face a very large backlash of opposition to that because… the allocation of school places, whether we like it or not, is a preference-driven system and parents obviously do like to have their choice of what still is an Ofsted Outstanding school, three forms of entry rather than two on their doorstep.”

He added, “Whilst I recognise the point that there are some schools that are struggling for numbers, this is a question where we’re just replacing accommodation which we probably should have replaced during the initial building scheme but didn’t have the money to do that at that point.”

The committee approved the extra cash during the meeting

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September 6, 2022