Why Northampton's new academy needs another £10m...and why the council would never have built it there in the first place

An artist's impression of the new academy
An artist's impression of the new academy

Total mismanagement is to blame for delays to a massive new school set to open in Northampton, according to the county’s opposition group, after a report reveal the scheme needs another £10.2 million to be completed.

This week, cabinet papers have shown that complications in renovating the former Royal Mail sorting office in Barrack Road have pushed the full opening of Northampton International Academy back by three-and-a-half months.

It means around 450 students will spend the opening weeks of the new term in a temporary building.

It also means the project manager, Northamptonshire County Council, is currently liable for a £10.2 million funding gap, unless it can get more money from the Education Funding Agency (EFA) and section 106 developer funds.

Leader of the council’s opposition group Councillor Bob Scott (Lab, Lloyds) said: “It is total mismanagement from top to bottom.This site should have been looked at properly at the start and it wasn’t.

“The cost of building an entirely new school would have been probably eighteen to twenty million, but instead they spent all this money on a refurbishment.”

The official opening of work starting on the new building

The official opening of work starting on the new building

The cause of the delays is understood to be a set of “design amendments” being proposed for a mezzanine floor, which is required to “address defects with the original building construction”.

The temporary modular building will add an extra £3 million to the scheme and additional fees for the developers will ad an extra £1.23 million. The project was orginally forecast as costing £20 million when it was first announced, but the final cost could be more in the region of £44.7 million.

A group of 150 Year Seven pupils at the EMLC Trust-sponsored school are currently being taught in temporary classrooms at the back of the site and 30 reception children are being taught at nearby Castle Academy. It was hoped these children, as well as a new group of up to 300 pupils, would move into the Barrack Road building in September next year. Speaking to the Chron in September last year, principal Roger Whittall, said “It has to be ready for September. We have no room to expand on the temporary site.”

However, a county council spokeswoman has confirmed the new cohort will instead move into the purpose-built modular building.

“We look forward to welcoming the new reception and Year 7 intake this September and would like to reassure parents that we are putting in place additional high-quality temporary accommodation on site.

“This building will deliver modern, fit-for-purpose teaching space including an IT lab and home economics classroom, all designed to deliver the very best standards of education in partnership with the EMLC Trust.”

Speaking at the cabinet meting on Tuesday, Councillor Matt Golby (Duston West and St Crispin), said; “Yes it’s regrettable that we’ve had to put a bit more money in, but the bottom line is the quality of education for the children of Northampton.”