It is a very rare occurrence that I have to write to the editor of a paper to express my concern on a story. However, in the case I – and the Head of Helston College – felt it necessary to write a letter to the editor with my concerns on a story.
The reason why is due to an article the West Briton published on its front page saying the rebuild at Helston College could be delayed for up to six years. This headline was based on inaccurate comment said by the Mayor of Helston at a recent town council meeting.
As readers know, the issue surrounding the rebuild has been a rollercoaster ride and with at least two times came close to a rebuild. However, the Council working with the College managed to secure £22m worth of funding that will go further than the original plan of rebuilding C-block.
The letter is as follows and has been signed by both myself as the Lead Member for Children and Young People, and the Head of Helston College:
Following the misleading article suggesting delays to the rebuild of Helston Community College which was published on the front page of the Helston edition of the West Briton, I am writing to put the record straight.
Unfortunately your reporter failed to check the accuracy of the article with either the school, the Council or the Department for Education who are leading on the scheme.
The facts are that there is no suggestion of a time delay for this project. We were told at the beginning of the process, when the Government initially confirmed the funding for the scheme, that the overall timescale for all the building projects being delivered under this tranche of Government funding to be completed would be over a six-year period. In your article reporting Mr Clegg’s visit to the College, you quote him directly stating: ‘It is a national programme which runs from 2015 to 2021.’
We are waiting for details from the Government about exactly what work will be carried out and when the project will occur in the six-year programme and expect to have this confirmed in the Autumn.
The school is in contact with the Department for Education and, in fact, was visited by Department for Education officials last week to carry out a site survey. There was no suggestion of any delay.
I am very disappointed that the paper chose to run this story without checking its accuracy. This has caused unnecessary alarm among parents and the local community.
We are working with the school to ensure that the scheme is carried out as quickly as possible and the publication of inaccurate stories such as this is very unhelpful.”
I must further clarify the story about the waste of £300k on the plan for C-Block. Foresight is a wonderful thing, but no-one has this power. The original plan was to for C-Block to be rebuilt, and for this to happen, the DfE/EFA needed what is called ‘shovel ready’ projects. This is where a project can go ahead once the funding has been agreed. Without the plan, you had no chance of getting the funding.
However, the Government announced more funding under the Priority School Build Programme which meant Cornwall Council could apply for more funding to address the other building issues at the College. The Council also made bids for six other schools, Which sadly only three schools secured funding
As you will know, the Council go more than a C-Block rebuild, The College now has the potential to have a whole school rebuild, or at least C, D and E block rebuilds. Though the default position was always C-Block, which we would have needed the current plans.
I hope the letter and this blog clarifies people’s concerns. Both the College and Cornwall Council are working damn hard in delivering the much-needed facilities at Helston College.