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Friday, 22 August 2014

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Carlisle ‘near top of list’ for school funds says chancellor

Chancellor George Osborne has said that Carlisle should be “near the top of the list” for extra funding for schools and further-education colleges.

He promised £1bn for school buildings and £270m for colleges when he delivered his Autumn Statement to Parliament on Wednesday.

Carlisle MP John Stevenson was quick off the mark, asking the Chancellor if Carlisle would be eligible.

He said: “If schools and colleges in my constituency have plans on the runway that are ready to take off, but just need a little bit of additional financial support, will the Chancellor help them to take the leap?”

Mr Osborne responded: “I am very happy to look personally at the case that my honourable friend makes for his local education facilities. These are of course decisions for other departments but....I am sure Carlisle should be near the top of the list.”

Conservative Mr Stevenson believes there are two schemes in Carlisle that might qualify.

Carlisle College wants to build a digital and creative arts centre at Swifts Mews, in Strand Road, costing £3m-6m.

And Trinity School has plans for a new sixth form centre, which would costs £3m-4m.

It also wants to improve sports facilities.

Headteacher Alan Mottershead told the News & Star earlier: “We are coming to the end of a £20m programme to rebuild the school but the two things we haven’t spent money on is sport and the sixth form.

“We are very excited by the prospect of money becoming available but we’ll have to wait to see the detail.”

The extra money could throw a lifeline to the west Cumbrian schools that missed out when the Coalition cancelled the previous government’s Building Schools for the Future programme.

This would have seen a new school built to replace Workington’s Southfield and Stainburn schools, redevelopment of Maryport’s Netherhall School and improvements at the West Cumbria Learning Centre at Distington and Mayfield School in Whitehaven.

The £1bn for schools is due to spent over the next two years. Mr Osborne said it would fund 100 new free schools and academies and help to expand good schools in areas with a severe shortage of school places.

He also said he would support performance-related pay for teachers, a move likely to upset teaching unions.

Although the Government is not pursuing local-pay bargaining, as it had previously suggested, Mr Osborne said there should be greater flexibility for schools to set pay levels.

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