Blessed Thomas Holford Catholic College

Local Authority proposal for prescribed alterations (expansion) in accordance with the School Organisation (Prescribed Alterations to Maintained Schools) (England) Regulations 2013

These Regulations set out the procedure that must be followed by Local Authorities where the physical expansion of a school is proposed.

Stage 1

Informal consultation with interested parties.  Whilst Stage 1 is not prescribed, there is a strong expectation that schools and LAs will consult interested parties when developing the proposal prior to publication, as part of their duty under public law to act rationally and take into account all relevant considerations. 

Stage 2

The publication of a statutory notice which begins Stage 3

Stage 3

The representation period, which must last for 4 weeks.

Stage 4

The final stage is Determination by Trafford’s Executive Member for Children’s Social Care.

The full proposal

Trafford Council (The Local Authority (LA)) proposes the expansion of Blessed Thomas Holford Catholic College to accommodate 1450 places in years 7 to 11, increasing the current net capacity from 1108 to 1450 and the Published Admission Number from 250 to 290.

This announcement represents Stage 2 of the statutory process that must be followed when the Local Authority proposes the physical expansion of a school.

Blessed Thomas Holford Catholic College, Urban Road, Altrincham, WA15 8HT, is a Voluntary aided school.

Objectives

The Local Authority has a duty, set out in the Education Act 1996, to ensure sufficient school places for children who live within its area.

The LA now proposes the expansion of Blessed Thomas Holford Catholic College.  Since the proposal is made to meet the needs of pupils currently attending the School, the increase in capacity will not adversely affect any other schools within the area.

Need or demand for additional places

The LA has a general duty under section 14 Education Act 1996 to ensure that there are available in its area, sufficient schools in number, character and equipment to provide for all pupils, the opportunity of appropriate education (s. 14 (2)).

In addition, the Education and Inspections Act 2006 amends section 14 of the 1996 Act by inserting a new subsection (3A) to require LAs in England, when exercising their powers on the provision of schools in their area, under that section, to do so with a view to securing diversity in the provision of schools and increasing opportunities for parental choice.

Blessed Thomas Holford Catholic College has been oversubscribed from applications received from baptised catholic children year on year for the last 8 years.  The Governing Body has stated its commitment to providing an outstanding Catholic education for baptised Catholic children living in the area and has sought to meet parental demand as far as possible.  Although a number of classrooms have been added recently, the cumulative effect of increasing admissions has resulted in a significant shortfall of accommodation. The school have been teaching children in spaces which are not designated classrooms and therefore the existing building capacity is close to being exceeded.  If the current level of places cannot be maintained there will be insufficient places to meet the needs of baptised catholic children living within the area in the first instance, and, as a result will add to the oversubscription levels at other, secular schools, in Trafford.

Consultation

Informal consultation began with an open evening on Wednesday 22nd January 2020.  The Local Authority offered three options:

  • Option 1 - building on open space off Urban Road / Welman Way
  • Option 2 - building on the existing site in two blocks
  • Option 3 - building on the existing site in one block

The meeting was attended by 57 people and the Local Authority received 140 written comments in total.  Of the 140 comments received:

99 were positive about the need for the additional buildings and expressed a preference for one of the three options:

  • 12 preferred option 1
  • 19 preferred option 2; and
  • 81 preferred option 3.

A number of common themes were expressed by those in favour and those against the proposal.

Consultees in favour of the proposal appreciated the lack of space on the existing site and were against the loss of the main external pupil recreation area and bus waiting area. Pupils were keen on the proposal with least disruption to their studies and residents could see Option 3 would be least disruptive to residents in the surrounding roads.

Consultees against the proposal were opposed to the school exceeding their capacity and to the loss of public open space if the Option 3 was chosen.  By far the most concern was raised over the current and future traffic and congestion issues faced by residents due to parent parking, school buses and Sports Academy parking.

This first stage of the Informal consultation process closed on 5 February. Executive Members and Senior Council Officers considered all the consultation responses and the impact of each location option. After much deliberation it was felt that Option 3 presented significant legal complexities which created risk that could seriously impact the programme if pursued. Therefore only an onsite option was considered realistically deliverable. This was communicated to consultees via the online citizen space portal.

On 5 May 2020 an update was launched online, due to the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, showing the proposed location and plans for a new block on the School’s current recreation area at the front of the school.

11 comments were received from residents and parents. Again citing traffic and parking as the main issue along with privacy and construction related concerns.

The submission of a planning application will also provide further consultation opportunities through the usual Town and Country Planning consultation process.

School capacity

The admission number published by the Governing Body of Blessed Thomas Holford Catholic College (PAN) has risen steadily from 160 in 2012, when the net capacity for Years 7 to 11, was 845, increasing to:

  • 190 in 2014, with a net capacity of 1015;
  • 200 in 2016, with a net capacity of 1078;
  • 210 in 2017, with a net capacity of 1078;
  • 230 in 2019 with an increased net capacity of 1108; and
  • 250 in 2020 (2020 net capacity measure not taken).

The January 2020 Census records 1326 pupils on roll in Years 7 to 11, 218 above the net capacity.

This proposal will further increase the published admission number to 290 whilst increasing the net capacity to 1450 for Years 7 to 11.

As part of the agreement that Trafford Council funds the required increase in capacity through its Basic Need allocation, the Governing Body has committed to a maximum admission number of 290. This is to ensure that the increase in capacity will not adversely affect any other schools within the area.

It is expected that the School will reach the maximum of 1450 pupils, in years 7 to 11, by September 2021.

Alteration description

Erection of a detached three storey building on the current recreation area at the front of the school (a new recreation area will be located at the back of the school) incorporating:

  • a 14 classroom teaching block
  • attached sports hall with associated changing facilities
  • formation of new car and cycle parking spaces
  • provision of new hard surface play area and associated development thereto.

A planning application has been submitted and validated (100763/FUL/20)

Project costs

On 24th June 2019 Trafford’s Executive Committee agreed £6.8M basic need funding in order to provide the additional accommodation to support a published admission number of 290 for Blessed Thomas Holford Catholic College.

Education standards

Blessed Thomas Holford Catholic College was judged by Ofsted at it last inspection to be outstanding in all areas.  The Diocese of Shrewsbury, on its last inspection, also found the School to be outstanding in all areas, reporting that “Blessed Thomas Holford Catholic College is an outstanding Catholic mixed comprehensive school in which all leaders, staff, governors and pupils contribute to the reality of a successful, mutually supportive community based on Gospel values. The school’s successes are all the more laudable by virtue of its comprehensive nature in an area which retains selective grammar schools.”

Extended services

The proposed expansion will not affect the provision of the School’s extended services.

Travel and accessibility

The school has good public transport links, being close to Altrincham Interchange which provides easy access to bus, train and Metrolink options.  86% of children attending travel by public transport or walk.

Implementation

The proposal will be implemented from 1 September 2021.

Objections and comments

Within four weeks from the date of the publication of these proposals (9July 2020), any person may object to or make comments on the proposal by sending them to:

Marilyn Golding, School Admissions Service Manager, Waterside House, Waterside, Sale, M33 7ZF

Or by email to school.admissions@trafford.gov.uk

All comments must be received by 6 August 2020.