Downham Market Academy wins share of £2 billion school building fund

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Millions of pounds could be spent on improving facilities at the Downham Academy after the school won a share of a government building cash pot.

The school has successfully bid for a share of £2 billion of Department for Education funding, which has been set aside for rebuilding and major refurbishment projects.

More than 270 schools across England have been awarded funding as part of the programme, which was announced by education secretary Nicky Morgan on Monday, although exactly how much will be given to each school has not yet been made clear.

But principal Jon Ford said: “This is great news for the young people of Downham Market and its surrounding areas.

“This large academy is in real need of improvement to provide an environment fit for the 21st century.”

Officials say that while the academy, which is sponsored by the CWA Academies Trust, is working hard to improve its students’ academic performance, those efforts are being hampered by poor quality buildings for which they insist investment is “long overdue”.

Mr Ford said they had identified major problems in 17 of the school’s buildings, including subsidence and the presence of asbestos in the main building at the Bexwell Road site, plus the ongoing need to use 10 temporary classrooms which are leaking and beyond their useful lives.

Other priorities include re-designing walkways to make them safe and replacing old boilers which are now proving increasingly difficult to maintain.

Mr Ford said the buildings were originally designed to cater for far fewer students than they do now.

And he said tackling all of the site’s problems would amount to building an entirely new school.

However, he expects that dealing with the subsidence and asbestos problems is still likely to cost millions of pounds alone.

He added: “Our surveyors have indicated it needs to be resolved now.

“We look forward to seeing how this investment can be used to resolve many of our issues.”

Mr Ford said they expect to find out how much money they will receive in the spring.