Under-14s cannot use £10m Daventry school building

Daventry UTC facility
Daventry UTC facility

A mother whose son began attending a Daventry school this week says she is bemused and disappointed at a restriction preventing the use of a state-of-the-art facility to pupils under 14.

Abigail Campbell, from Braunston, along with several other parents in the Daventry area, voiced her displeasure at a district council restriction part of the lease terms of the former UTC building, now run by the Parker E-Act Academy.

The terms state the Daventry UTC building could be used primarily to educate 14-19 year-olds, but Mrs Campbell does not see the benefit of such a restricted use given the quality of the facility which has workshops, laboratories, a four-court sports hall and a host of classrooms and breakout rooms.

“It’s bemusing, I don’t fully understand it,” she said.

“I find it really disappointing. I think both parents and kids were looking forward to using the UTC space.”

She added: “It’s almost like the kids have got their noses pressed up against the glass but they can’t get in.”

The £10 million building is one of several University Technical College sites so have become schools after closing their doors earlier this year.

UTCs in Oldham and Greenwich have been repurposed. According to the Oldham Evening Chronicle, Oasis Academy Oldham will use the site to accommodate 120 year 7s who do not have a school place. The Greenwich site meanwhile looks set for a £13 million renovation project to convert the building into an 11-to-18 school.

But because the site of Daventry UTC was transferred to Parker with the existing lease, the restrictions relevant to the previous occupants have remained, frustrating and perplexing parents.

A source close to the academy said the restrictions made no sense both educationally or strategically, nor did they add any monetary or cultural value, and that Parker were surprised to learn about them, prompting discussions on how they could be lifted to take place soon after.

Simon Bowers, business manager at Daventry District Council, said: “The Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) informed the council it intended to assign the lease from the UTC Trust to E-Act, for the purposes of the Parker Academy.

"The lease includes a requirement that the site is used primarily for students age 14-19 and following discussion about options the council received assurances from E-Act and the ESFA that these terms would be complied with. E-Act was well aware of the requirement for 14-19 use back in April 2017.

“The council was content with this arrangement. However it would appear that the message received by parents may have been somewhat different to the position reached by the council, E-Act and the ESFA. The council remains happy to discuss a way forward.”

As landlords the district council have the right to visit the site and can take action against the school should it find the UTC building, renamed the Randolph Building, is being used in breach of the terms of the lease.

A spokesperson for E-Act said: “We are delighted that the Randolph Building is already feeling part of the very fabric of our two E-ACT Daventry academies. Our students are making full use of the excellent facility with several already commenting on just how much at home they feel within the new space.

"With the full support of the ESFA the pre-existing lease was transferred to E-ACT on the principle that the former Daventry UTC building would be used primarily to educate 14-19 year olds. The Randolph Building is home to E-ACT’s Daventry Sixth Form though younger students have use of the facility within the terms of our agreement.”