Further to the article which was published in The Whitehaven News on 13th August, we would like to state that we do not recognise the scenario being reported and we would like to set down the facts and the timeline of events to date:
- We met with the Leader and Chief Executive of Cumbria County Council on 10th September 2014 and discussed the scope and aims of the Campus Whitehaven project, funding of the project, the current status of the project and the next steps to take it forward.
- We wrote to Cumbria County Council on 16th September to confirm our understanding of the discussions which took place during this meeting.
- Cumbria County Council replied to our letter on 18th September to confirm their agreement of all the points we set down in our letter of 16th September.
This meeting and subsequent letters made it clear that Bright Tribe Trust was committed to being a part of the Campus Whitehaven project, and that we were committed to working together with all partners of the project to improve education for the young people of Whitehaven. It was agreed that the next step would be for the Council to set up a meeting with potential funders of the scheme and that we would be invited to that meeting. For our part we agreed that we would be willing to contribute any funding that we may secure from central government to the project. Unfortunately in spite of the commitment we were never invited to the proposed meeting with other funders.
Some key points that we would also like to make:
- The Campus Whitehaven project has not to our knowledge ever produced an educational rationale for its creation. We discussed this in detail with Cumbria County Council and they agreed with this point, and agreed that producing such a rationale must be the first step in delivering an expensive project that would provide value for money. We offered the Council support to do this work but the offer was never taken up.
- The original proposals for a single site development with shared facilities was never accompanied by an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of such a proposal. It was assumed that it would deliver efficiencies and we have questioned the basis on which that assumption was made since experience elsewhere demonstrates that such schemes can be difficult to manage on a day to day basis.
- The project, when we first met in September 2014, was not funded and Cumbria County Council told us that one of the considerations was the level of funding they were willing to procure through prudential borrowing. In a move that would help to narrow the funding gap we had applied under the Priority Schools Building Programme for funding for The Whitehaven Academy, and we agreed that if we were successful we would pool our funding into the Campus Whitehaven project. Cumbria County Council thought this very helpful as they had missed the opportunity to apply under Priority Schools for the Campus Whitehaven project.
- In addition, the provision of a leisure facility in Whitehaven, at a cost of £10m, put additional pressure on the funding requirement.
- We were not consulted on the recent announcements, we were unaware of the content, and we were most surprised to learn that we were not included, and that the leisure centre was to be funded. We have written to the Leader and Chief Executive to seek an explanation for why the undertakings that were made were not followed through.
We think it is imperative that all the students of Whitehaven benefit from the fund created for this specific use.
At The Whitehaven Academy, day by day we continue to make improvements and we are extremely pleased with today’s A level results.
We remain committed to finding the best funded solution to make sure all the students of Whitehaven benefit, and we are very disappointed to find ourselves in a position where we have to defend our proper and appropriate actions and we feel let down by our partners’ response to date.