From the Wavertree Society's Newsletter 130, April 2000:



Following the announcement of the Blue Coat School's intention to move from its present site in Church Road, we wrote to the Chairman of the Governors (Mr Peter Healey), the Leader of the City Council (Cllr Mike Storey) and the M.P. for Wavertree (Ms Jane Kennedy) stating the Society's objection to such a move, and our concern for the future of the Grade II* Listed school buildings and the school's playing fields in Woolton Road.

We have since had a reply from Cllr Storey, sharing our concern for the existing buildings but stating that any decision is a matter for the Governors, not the Council. We have had a meeting with Mr Healey, who reiterated that the Governors had voted unanimously to "consider a move to a new site within the City of Liverpool" but that their preference was for "a greenfield site close to the existing school". He confirmed that the estimated cost of refurbishment was £8 million (not £20 million, as quoted in the press) and that this was the basis of the bid for government funding in 1998.

Jane Kennedy M.P. has not, as yet, replied to our letter but has been reported in the Liverpool Echo as being in favour of a move to the Kensington regeneration area. It was the government's Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) which - having previously offered £7 million towards refurbishment, to be supplemented by £1 million from the Blue Coat Hospital Foundation which owns the buildings - had requested the school to "revisit the options", the implication being that the DfEE had changed its mind about the merits of refurbishment.

Various arguments in favour of relocation have been put forward by the School's Headmaster, including a claim that the existing buildings are "three times too big" (based on DfEE floorspace guidelines), they are not "future proof" (another reference to DfEE guidelines) and they will be "incapable of delivering the full National Curriculum" even after refurbishment. The latter comment is, apparently, mainly a reference to the lack of adequate sports facilities, though it is difficult to see why this should be considered to be such a problem when the Picton Sports Centre's facilities are so close at hand - not to mention the fact that the school has an excellent sporting as well as academic reputation.

The existing buildings are also said to be "inflexible", largely it seems owing to their Listed status which, it is argued, prevents walls being knocked down to allow changes in the internal layout. However, no advice on this point was sought either from English Heritage or the Council's planners before the Governors made their decision. In reality, if the school moves out, then - in order to secure the survival of the existing buildings - fairly radical internal alterations may have to be permitted (e.g. to allow conversion to flats, which has been suggested as the most likely future use).

The school's Governors do not own the existing buildings, so are under no obligation to consider their future when deciding whether or not to move. However, there is considerable overlap of membership between the governing body and the Foundation's Board of Trustees. We are hoping to persuade the trustees to set up a Project Team to examine alternative futures for the buildings (including their radical refurbishment for use as a modern school) to operate in parallel with the Project Team which has been set up by the Governors to examine alternative sites. The controversy over the school's future was featured on BBC TV's North West news programme on 13th April, when Florence Gersten spoke on behalf of the Society.

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