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Elmstead Market head’s plea for cash falls on deaf ears
A CAMPAIGNING headteacher has spoken of his disappointment after a top-level meeting with a Government minister failed to win him the cash he needs to rebuild his school.
Gary Smith has appealed to millionaires, philanthropists and politicians, including the Prime Minister, in his drive to rebuild Market Field School, in Elmstead Market.
The school, for children with special learning needs, is vastly overcrowded – its 183 students squeezing into a building designed for just 70.
The playground is so full of temporary classrooms it has been nicknamed “Shed City”, with more than 60 per cent of the teaching carried out in these buildings, some of which have leaky roofs.
Mr Smith met Sarah Teather, Lib Dem minister for children and families, to ask for money to build a new school.
Mr Smith said: “Sarah Teather was a really nice woman, but the discussion hit a brick wall.
“There was a lot of talk about going for academy status. We could go down that road if we had land for a new building, but we don’t.
“We also asked if the county council or the Government could sell assets to fund it, or could give us land, but it was another dead end.
“There is plenty of land on the former garrison, but we can’t have it.”
Six years ago, Mr Smith was advised to draw up plans for a new school on the existing site, but little has happened since them.
A new £25million purpose-built school would provide Education for students aged up to 19 and respite care for parents.
Essex County Council has said nothing can be done until a complete review of special needs education has been completed and, in the longer term, it seems progress may be made.
Mrs Teather’s boss, Tory Education Secretary Michael Gove has promised to talk to Stephen Castle, county councillor responsible for education, about the problem.
But Mr Smith is eager to get things moving. He said: “There is talk of a new building in 2017, but that is five years away. We needed it yesterday.”