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GM school ordered to pay for leisure centre

A grant-maintained school in Derbyshire has been ordered by a High Court judge to pay Pounds 30,000 toward the costs of a leisure centre used by pupils.

The ruling came in a long-running dispute between Belper School and Labour-controlled Amber Valley borough council. Governors are now seeking emergency funding from the Funding Agency for Schools, and solicitors have advised them to appeal against the order. The 1,000-pupil school, which opted out two years ago, uses the centre for all of its PE, and Rosemary Ingham, headteacher, said: "Without it we are not able to deliver our national curriculum PE."

It sought an injunction against the borough council after the centre - part of its site - shut for a week. But while the school won its action to get pupils re-admitted, it was ordered to pay Pounds 30,000 towards the running costs of the centre, which includes a swimming pool and gym. It already pays Pounds 70,000 in energy and insurance bills, and has been in dispute with the borough council for 18 months over how much it should contribute in running costs for the centre, which is also used by local people.

Before the school opted out, running costs were shared between the borough council and Derbyshire county council. Belper is the only secondary school to use the centre.

It is used by half a dozen primaries, and by the community during evenings, weekends and holidays.

Peter Carney, chief executive of the borough council, said: "We had an agreement with the county council which worked successfully for 20 years. It is unlikely that this matter can be resolved without further court action. "

He estimated joint legal costs for the one-day High Court hearing were Pounds 25,000, and said: "This is costing us and the school, and it is money we would rather be investing in running the leisure centre."

Mrs Ingham said: "We can't afford to pay this Pounds 30,000, nor legally can we use school money to subsidise the centre for community use.

"We feel we have been put in this position through no fault of our own. It has become a matter of principle and we are caught in the middle."

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