Normally I write cheerful, inconsequential blogs aiming to bring a smile to your lips.  No chuckles here I’m afraid because I’m campaigning about an apparent injustice that, with your help, can be corrected.

It concerns funding for a new free school, Holyport College, in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.  The secondary school, sponsored by Eton College, opened last year in brand new, purpose-built facilities that cost £15million.  At present it has 122 pupils and plans to be full in three or four years’ time.  Despite this, at a meeting of the Council in April, £480,000 was awarded to the school to expand the kitchen and changing rooms, both of which, for the foreseeable future, are already quite large enough.

This windfall should come from Section 106 (money paid by developers to the Council to reduce the impact of development).  However, the money is to be fast tracked to the school before planning permission for the development in question has been granted.  No S106 money has been collected by the Council and if planning permission isn’t granted, the school will not have to pay the money back.

The size of this award for needless expansions at Holyport College means that other schools in the area, much closer to the proposed development, will lose out completely despite submitting more worthy, and far more modest, proposals for ways they could use extra funding.

I’m afraid vested interests are at work.  It transpires that the Deputy Leader of the Council, Simon Dudley, is not only one of the founders of Holyport College, he is also chair of the governors!  Another councillor, Phil Bicknell, who proposed the award at the Council meeting on 28 April, has a son who is head of sport at Holyport College.  Both councillors not only spoke in favour of the award, they also voted for it!  Normal practice (of course) would be for both councillors to declare their interest and leave the room for the discussion and the vote.

Quite understandably, parents in the area are concerned about shady goings-on and are asking questions of the councillors, none of which have been satisfactorily answered.  The key questions are:

1        Why did RBWM decide that they should hand £480,000 to expand a brand new school that won’t be full for another 3 years?

2        Why did they fast track the money despite the fact that they haven’t actually granted planning permission to the development that will provide the funds?

The parents have started a campaign, Fair Funding for All Borough Schools, to raise over 1,000 signatures on a petition by the end of July 2015.  Please sign their petition – you do not have to be a resident in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.  Here is the link: http://petitions.rbwm.gov.uk/developerfunding/#detail

I’d better declare my interest (hypocritical of me not to!). Firstly, I have grandchildren at schools in Windsor and Maidenhead that are being disadvantaged by the decision to favour one school over others in the area.  Secondly, I am strongly in favour of transparency and, assuming I have understood the issues correctly, the decision to make such a large award to one school to the detriment of other schools with more urgent claims, seems, well, dodgy to put it mildly.

Please sign the petition.

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