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Council queries GM go-ahead to expand

The expansion of a grant-maintained school in Hillingdon is being queried by the education authority because it is being done without any formal proposal to the Department for Education, writes Geraldine Hackett.

The Funding Agency for Schools, which controls the planning of secondary education in the London borough, has decided that Douay Martyrs can increase its yearly intake from 190 pupils to 240.

According to Chris Shires, deputy director of education in Hillingdon, the school will increase in size by about 25 per cent and that would normally require the approval of the Education Secretary. "Our concern is whether the Funding Agency has the right to make a final decision of this sort, which represents a major change of character," says Mr Shires.

An extra 1,000 secondary-school places are needed in Hillingdon and the Funding Agency has announced plans to expand five GM schools, including Douay Martyrs, at a cost of Pounds 11.5 million.

The council does not intend to object to the distribution of the new school places but it does want clarification of whether the Funding Agency can agree a significant expansion of a school without the formal processes of applying to the Education Secretary and publishing proposals.

"This decision could set a precedent and we want to be sure the Funding Agency has the power to give the go ahead," says Mr Shires.

The council's case is rejected by Lady Stubbs, head of Douay Martyrs. She says she is satisfied the school has done all that is required in terms of meeting the needs of parents.

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