Ambitious plans to move flood-prone primary

Posted on: 20 June 2016

The governors of Tipton St John Primary School have announced ambitious plans to re-locate their ageing, flood-prone buildings to a brand new site.

The Church of England school has been flooded on a number of occasions with children being evacuated and the school being shut for major clean-up operations.

The governors had applied to Education Minister Lord Nash for funding to re-locate the school within the village.

But they have now been told that the Government will not fund the move to another village site.

Now – following talks with the Diocese of Exeter and Devon County Council – the governors have decided to consult on the possibility of moving the school to a brand new site with purpose-built facilities in Ottery St Mary.

Chair of governors, John Sherwood, said the current split-site school had very special challenges:

  • The existing buildings on the lower site are temporary, small, deteriorating and have a limited life
  • Planning permission will not be granted for replacement buildings on the lower site due to the flood risk
  • The school has operational and safety issues arising from a split site partly on the floodplain.
  • Tipton is a small rural school with an intake of approximately 15 children a year with the majority of pupils coming from outside the catchment area
  • Tipton St John is not a location in which significant housing development is anticipated and the demographics make it impossible for the catchment alone to sustain the school

Mr Sherwood said: “Devon County Council, the Diocese of Exeter, our local MP, county councillor and other concerned parties agree that we cannot maintain the status quo and, as governors, we are continuing to explore ways to secure the long-term future of the school.

“We now believe that, having exhausted every option to re-locate the school within the village, the only remaining possibility is to move the school to a new build on a site near the King’s School in Ottery.

“This option would ensure the school would remain open, retain its Voluntary Aided status and would move to new buildings whilst retaining absolute continuity in terms of staff, curriculum and ethos.

“This would not be a decision governors would make lightly and consideration of this option is still at a very early stage.”

Tipton Close UpExecutive Headteacher, Colin Butler, said: “Obviously, as a school, our prime responsibility is the health, safety and welfare of our pupils.

“We have well-rehearsed evacuation procedures in place but we must secure a long term future for our school with the prospect of more frequent flooding  as our climate changes.

“A new build school on a single site would provide 21st century learning facilities to enable our children to achieve even better than they do now and would secure the school’s future.”

The Exeter Diocesan Director of Education, John Searson, said: “‘The Exeter Diocesan Board of Education are pleased to be working in partnership with Devon County Council to secure the long-term future of Tipton St John CE Aided Primary School.

“The sustainability of this high quality Church of England school, serving both Tipton St John and Ottery St Mary, is an important priority for us.

“Hopefully new purpose-built facilities will further raise aspirations and help to improve the life chances of pupils for generations to come.”

Devon County Council’s Cabinet member for schools, James McInnes, said: “We have to find a long-term solution to the serious flooding problems that the school faces on its current site.

“We have established a strong partnership with the school, the governors and the Diocese of Exeter that should enable us to raise the considerable funds necessary to build a brand new school if that is the final decision.  And the local MP, Hugo Swire, is also exploring other funding options with the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.”

Tipton St John FloodingLocal county councillor Claire Wright said: “I have been battling alongside Colin Butler, the governors and the diocese to try to achieve a rebuild of Tipton Primary School in the village for several years.

“Unfortunately we have been let down by government ministers who have repeatedly refused to fund a new build, despite the very obvious and well evidenced flooding problems.

“I am very sad that it looks unlikely that a new build within the village will now take place.”

5 comments on “Ambitious plans to move flood-prone primary

  1. Susan Edwards says:

    Can you please explain why the ‘ considerable funds’ you are confident in raising cannot be used to build a new school on a village site that has previously been identified and approved by both Devon County Council and planners. This would allow the school to remain in the vicinity of the village and not place Tipton St John school in Ottery St Mary where it will become just another Ottery St Mary primary school.

    • Hi Susan. The funds are linked to an increase in pupil numbers within Ottery St Mary and the need to provide additional places to support growth, as set out in the East Devon Local Plan.

    • Susan Edwards says:

      Thank you for the reply. I don’t think the need for additional school places in Ottery St Mary is in dispute and the Plan has had to identify a possible site to allow for this. Your response though confirms that this is actually an Ottery St Mary issue and separate to the needs and requirements of Tipton St John School.

  2. Francesca Small says:

    This states planning will NOT be granted due to flooding however not mitigation report has been done to assess whether the flooding can be sorted? Also this is an extreme exaduration on evacuations and closing the school to clean up. The school has NEVER been closed to clean up and only ONCE have parents been asked to collect children early!

  3. Francesca Small says:

    This is an extremely one sided report of a CLOSURE hidden as a move, they are removing the school from Tipton St. John and putting it in another town to suit Devon county’s need for more schooling places in said town. It will render the village a sad graveyard and the flooding has only been a problem since a badly placed pavement was put it which could easily be removed and relocated! This is a corrupt and ridiculous!

Posted in: DCC Homepage