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Council apologises over school shake-up 'mess'
SOUTHEND Council has been forced to apologise after bungling a planned shake-up of its school for troubled children.
The Tory administration unveiled plans to revamp Seabrook College by closing its campus in Constable Way, Shoebury, formerly the Renown Centre for Learning.
Pupils were set to move to Eastwood Primary School and former private school Crown College, in Westcliff, last month.
But James Courtenay, councillor responsible for children and learning, has apologised after Eastwood Primary School quashed the council’s plan.
The borough solicitor also apologised after officers risked driving up the price of Crown College, which it hopes to rent, by publishing the top amount the authority would pay for the building.
Opposition councillors have questioned why the council is seeking to replace the former Renown Centre, in Constable Way, just 11 years after it was unveiled to much fanfare.
Lib Dem leader Graham Longley said: “This is a mess.
“We have got buildings we don’t know what we are doing with. This is important to the children and young adults involved. We must get it right.”
Labour leader Ian Gilbert said: “We were told not all that many years ago the building in Shoebury was perfect for this purpose.
“It seems that something has gone wrong and it is important to report the mistake.”
The council hoped to accommodate pupils with social, emotional and behavioural needs at the Eastwood Primary School site and Crown College, which closed down last month, as Seabrook College is three times oversubscribed and the school hall of the former Renown campus is too small.
But Eastwood Primary School’s governors branded the plan “unworkable” just three weeks after it was unveiled.
Mr Courtenay said: “There are different stages to go through and we were told we were at the stage where it would be fine to go ahead at Eastwood so a paper went out to cabinet advising primary provision should relocate there.
“The governing body met to discuss its feasibility and came back to say they weren’t able to do it.
“I’m disappointed by their decision, but they are the people on the ground and know what’s feasible and what’s not.”
John Williams, the council’s head of legal and democratic services, apologised after officers publicly revealed they would pay up to £50,000 to rent Crown College, in North Road, showing their hand before negotiations started.
He said: “In my view that was not the best course of action. There are always some bits that slip through the net.
“I apologise for that.”
The council hopes to find alternative arrangements before September.
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