Plans for new secondary school on Thurrock Rugby Club site are shelved

Orsett Heath

PLANS to open a new secondary school in Thurrock in September have been shelved.

The South West Essex Community Trust, which runs Williams Edwards School, was planning to open the Orsett Heath Academy in a temporary, building at Thurrock Rugby Club in time to accommodate 120 pupils in September, with another 120 to follow in 2020.

Chief Executive Officer of the South West Essex Community Education Trust, Steve Munday has explained why there will be a delay. Mr Munday said: “As you are aware, we have been working tirelessly in partnership with Thurrock Council to open a brand-new school in Thurrock to help meet the demand for secondary school places in the local area.

“While I am confident that everyone at South West Essex Community Education Trust has done everything possible to enable us to open in September 2019, we are incredibly disappointed to have to inform you that unexpected delays outside of our control will now mean Orsett Heath Academy is likely to open in September 2020.

To secure funding to open a school, the Department for Education (DfE) must conduct assessment processes to confirm the feasibility of the school and provide an ‘approval to open’ decision. Without this decision, a school cannot be built. We were told, prior to the Orsett Heath Academy information evening, that the ‘approval to open’ decision could be made by January 2019, meaning we could start construction on the temporary site immediately
following a planning decision in January, ready for September.

However, despite the heads of terms on the main site being agreed in October 2018 and planning permission being granted for the temporary building by Thurrock Council in January delays have meant that the feasibility study will now not be completed for a few more months.

This sadly means we cannot start building or recruiting staff for the interim site in time for it to open in September 2019.

“I am sure that this will be equally disappointing news for the community. Thurrock Council have assured us that they are working to ensure all children in the area are offered a suitable secondary school place for September.

With capital approval now confirmed by the DfE for the main site, we are confident that the necessary processes are now moving forward so that we can start building the academy buildings in plenty of time for September 2020 and deliver on our promise to create a high-quality new school for the community.”

However, today (Friday, 15 February) the Trust’s chief executive officer Steve Munday has announced that ‘unexpected delays’ have meant the plans have had to be delayed.

That means Thurrock Council now has the job of finding places for the children earmarked for the new school – though in his announcement, Mr Munday says the authority has assured the trust they are ‘working to ensure all children in the area are offered a suitable secondary school place for September’.

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