Warning over closure fears for crumbling secondary schools

Crumbling secondary schools in Yorkshire’s largest city are in a “desperate” situation, a senior councillor has warned, as he called for an urgent meeting with the Education Secretary to tackle a backlog of building repairs totalling £100m.

Coun Jonathan Pryor, the executive member for learning at Leeds City Council, has written to Damian Hinds calling for urgent action, warning three secondaries could face closure or a move to temporary accommodation if pleas are ignored.

With population increases, 
he said in a letter seen by The Yorkshire Post, a significant number of new school places 
are needed alongside new 
buildings for crumbling secondaries.

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“Leeds schools are at breaking point,” he warned, revealing that meetings were first sought with the Education Secretary in September but that he had as yet received no response or acknowledgment.

“If the points in this letter continue to be ignored by the Government, we may find ourselves in a position where schools in Leeds could face closure, or a move to temporary modular accommodation, on health and safety grounds.”

The condition of a number of schools in the city has worsened since the end of the Government’s repair programme in 2010, he said, claiming Leeds City Council also now receives around £260m less a year that it did nine years ago.

Calling for Mr Hinds to visit the three sites, he added: “The young people of Leeds deserve schools that are not falling down.”

The original letter, submitted to the Department for Education (DfE) and local MPs at the start of the academic year, warned that the city council was then at a point where it was considering closing schools. Benton Park, Royds and Wetherby High Schools are all in a state of disrepair, Coun Pryor disclosed, and needed urgent rebuilding – at a cost of £50m.

There are significant concerns over an ageing building at Benton Park in Rawdon, which has over 1,300 students, amid failing concrete and structural supports.

At Wetherby High School, the letter detailed, the main block needs rebuilding, with an urgent need to replace curtain walling and windows. And at Royds High School, damaged by flooding in 2017, extensive roof repairs are needed, the letter revealed, alongside failing boilers.

Now, writing again to the Education Secretary in a letter circulated to all the city’s MPs as well as the Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Angela Rayner, he said: “My original letter was not made public out of the hope that we could work across the political divide, hoping that the educational needs of Leeds’s young people would transcend partisan difference. It would appear I was wrong.”

Citing a recent Ofsted rating of Outstanding awarded to Leeds City Council’s children’s services, the only city nationwide to receive this, he added: “It is clear that Leeds can deliver for its children but that we are being held back and let down by the Government.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “There are now 17,565 more school places in Leeds than there were in 2010. We provide School Condition Allocations to local authorities to invest in their schools for which they are responsible, including £6.7m for Leeds this year.”