The opening of Lyde Green’s long-awaited 900-place secondary school has been deferred yet again – until 2026 – and the Department for Education (DfE) has warned South Gloucestershire Council that the project faces cancellation if there are any further delays.
The letter sent to the council’s director of education this month outlines that the Department of Education had passed responsibility for delivering the project to South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) which wanted to combine the building of the secondary school with the provision of additional school buildings for a new primary school, along with the provision of community sports facilities and manage it as one project.
The letter continues: “Initially this school was to be opened in 2022 although it became apparent that this wouldn’t be possible and the decision was made to defer the opening until 2023.
“Little progress was made towards achieving this opening date and a second deferral of the opening date was agreed in 2022, with the school projected to open in 2024.
“With progress still remaining slow it was accepted by SGC that this date would also not be met and thus Hannah Woodhouse, the Regions Group Director for the South West, has agreed to defer the opening of this school to September 2026. Whilst agreeing to this deferral it needs to be made clear that capital projects including the Free School pipeline, are routinely considered for cancellation if they are indefinitely postponed, as there may be other, more pressing uses for the funding across the school capital estate.
“South Gloucestershire Council should expect any further delays to trigger a formal review of the need for the school and how realistic the delivery of this project is in relation to the need for such a provision. We would reiterate that we do want to open this school, therefore the Department for Education will continue to provide the ongoing support it has done over the past two years but would like to see some significant progress with this project so that discussions about cancellation are not required.”
Delays so far have included a change to location, a change in the sponsor of the secondary school, and a change in builder. Conditions in the construction industry have also seen costs rise significantly.
The Olympus Academy Trust has been chosen to run the secondary school and the Castle School Education Trust (CSET) is due to run the primary school. As the schools are to be co-located it is understood the deferral impacts the primary school too.
The council is under a Lib Dem-Labour administration following May’s local elections when the Conservatives lost their majority.
In July the new administration said it was keen to get the project finally and needed to secure more funding from the Government. The cost of the scheme was £30m in 2021 but £41m has so far been committed by the council and the Government.
This afternoon the council told The Week In: “We remain committed to working with the Department for Education to delivering these new schools and are focused on ensuring this can happen for the academic year commencing September 2026.
“We aim to be able to provide a more substantial update before the half term break.”