Agreement over building of sixth form breached
Sandbach High School and Sixth Form College is in breach of an agreement made in relation to the development of a sixth form block, the Chronicle can reveal.
The department for education confirmed that the school was told to demolish the Gateway 2 block as part of the school’s 2015-2016 Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) Bid, which went towards construction of the new sixth form building.
Department for education representatives visited the school in November to find that the building was still in place and have since written to the Saxon Crosses Multi-Academy Trust “reminding it of the need to complete the CIF project to the approved specification”.
A spokesperson for the Government department told the Chronicle this week: “Demolishing their Gateway 2 block was a part of Sandbach High School’s 2015-2016 CIF bid and we are aware that the trust has not yet demolished it as planned.
“The DfE visited Sandbach High School on the 11th November and, following the visit, has written to the trust reminding it of the need to complete their CIF project to their approved specification.
“Failure to do so is a violation of the CIF terms and conditions.”
The school has been asked to comment about why the former sixth form building was not demolished but it had not responded by deadline yesterday (Wednesday).
The Condition Improvement Fund is a pot of cash for which eligible education bodies can bid for a slice of annually for capital funding.
The department for education’s website explains: “The priority for the fund is to address significant condition need, keeping education provider buildings safe and in good working order. This includes funding projects to address health and safety issues, building compliance and poor building condition.
“CIF also supports a small proportion of expansion projects. These are for academies, sixth-form colleges and non-diocesan voluntary aided schools rated good or outstanding by Ofsted that can demonstrate a need to expand.”
The Chronicle requested to see Sandbach High School’s CIF bid and the department’s report after visiting the school, but the request was denied.
The department spokesperson said: “We do not publish Condition Improvement Fund bids or supporting evidence provided by schools.”
The news comes after the Chronicle reported last week that the school lost a legal battle it instigated with a contractor over the development of the three-storey sixth form building, which resulted in the school’s multi academy trust recording an annual loss of £278,000.
The loss was noted in the trust’s 2018/19 annual report, which also acknowledged the possibility the academy may cease to continue as a going concern as a result.
The report revealed the trust had incurred additional costs in the year primarily as a result of an adjudication decision made against it in December over building costs sought by Castle Special Projects.
As a result of these additional costs, the report said the trust had made a loss for the year of £278,000 and had liabilities of £139,000.
The Chronicle found that the school had instigated proceedings against Castle over unpaid costs linked to the construction of the sixth form block, which was built in 2016.
An exact figure over how much was paid to Castle has not been established but a representative of the developer said it was “nearly £200,000”.
The legal fees paid by the school are unknown.
Castle’s representative added that they had tried to come to a compromise which “could have saved the school £150,000”. They claimed that the school had “ignored advice” from legal representatives before going ahead with the legal process.
John Leigh, the headteacher and head of the multi-academy trust, will retire at the end of this school year although the school has made it clear his departure is not connected to the legal proceeding