Council to foot £1m debt for Collegiate

Collegiate High School, Blackpool
Collegiate High School, Blackpool
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Town hall bosses are set to pay off a £1m debt built up by a soon-to-be-closed high school.

As Collegiate High School, on Blackpool Old Road, welcomes its final students this term, ahead of closing to make way for a merger and multi-million redevelopment and conversion to academy status, Blackpool Council is preparing to foot the bill.

The £1m has built up since pupil numbers dropped drastically from 2009, with the secondary last year teaching just 324 youngsters in the 1,050-capacity facilities.

It means the school has lost £2.9m of Government funding in the past five years, while still having to pay bills for staffing, maintenance and running costs.

Now, as the school is forced to convert to academy status as part of its merger with Bispham High School and £14m redevelopment to rehome the two alongside Highfurlong Special School, the council has been left with no option but to find the money.

The council’s education boss, Coun Ivan Taylor, said he is “unhappy” about the situation but added the prospect of a new £14m school for the resort is a positive thing.

He said: “The new school is part of the priority schools building programme and it is a requirement new schools be academies, otherwise we wouldn’t have got that £14m for it.

“So the debt will fall on Blackpool Council.

“It’s far from ideal. I’m not happy we find ourselves in this situation but we had two schools with low numbers and falling rolls.”

The money is set to come from a £2.7m reserves fund in the council’s education budget, held by the local authority for financial pressures from schools.

While the council has been able to reduce the amount of debt being built up, bosses say it would be difficult to be brought down further before the school closes and converts, and by law a new academy cannot take on a previous school’s debt.

The sum has to be paid ahead of the school’s conversion to academy status, anticipated to be September this year.

Coun Taylor added: “It is a significant sum and it is an issue and we think it’s unfair the way it works but when you’re getting a new £14m school there has to be some balance.”