Schools minister Nick Gibb visits Sleaford to hear about bid build new co-ed grammar school on edge of town

The Government’s Minister for Schools, Nick Gibb, paid a visit to Sleaford on Thursday to learn at first hand about Carre’s Grammar School’s long-term merger ambitions to relocate to a new site on the outskirts of town.

L-R Nick Law, Nick Gibb, Caroline Johnson MP, Andrew Hutton. EMN-210624-145339001
L-R Nick Law, Nick Gibb, Caroline Johnson MP, Andrew Hutton. EMN-210624-145339001

But it looks likely to be a lengthy wait for Government funding to be forthcoming.

The schools standards Minister was joined by Dr Caroline Johnson, MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham as they toured the grammar school’s Northgate site, watching lessons in progress as well as talking to the students.

They met with the school’s chairman of trustees, Andrew Hutton, and the headteacher Nick Law, to further discuss the £30million bid by the Robert Carre Trust to move the town’s two, space-constrained grammar schools to a brand new co-educational setting west of the A15 bypass, to deliver modern facilities and opportunities, catering for 1,600-pupils with scope to expand to 2,000.

Nick Gibb and Caroline Johnson MP talking to L-R Nickolai Shklyaver (ex head boy), Annie Johnson (ex head girl), Matthew Bolton (current head boy), AOscar Simmons (head of school council), Alexia Johnson (current head girl) and Russell Smith (head of 6th form) EMN-210624-145228001

Executive headteacher Nick Law said they were delighted to welcome Mr Gibb and Dr Johnson to meet staff and students and discuss the plans: “We are aware of the challenges that lie ahead, but with their support we are clear that our long-term plan will help to support the town’s economic development as well as bring significant benefit to our future students.”

He said it has been an ambition since 2012, tying the scheme in with the Sleaford Masterplan proposed by local councils.

Mr Gibb said he was pleased to visit Carre’s, coinciding with National School Sport Week, also noting Carre’s sports provision: “It’s vital that all pupils get opportunities to be active, so it was encouraging to see how the school’s commitment to physical activity and sport runs through everything it does - helping to improve pupils’ development and wellbeing.”

Dr Johnson added: “The proposal to relocate the school to a new location on the edge of town, with excellent new facilities that can be used by local people as well as pupils, has enormous potential for Sleaford.

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“I want to see the very best facilities and opportunities for our young people and I’m grateful to the Minister for taking the time to visit and see for himself the impact that such a scheme could have. I look forward to continuing discussions on how to move this project forward.”

Although no promises of funding were made at the visit, Dr Johnson remained hopeful, saying the project would be fantastic for the town and she would continue to actively campaign for it to be built.

She said: “The first step was the Minister’s meeting. Then I will meet with the school to go through the figures and then with Baroness Beridge and the capital funding teams of civil servants.”

Dr Johnson admitted: “It will take time but I will keep pushing for it.

L-R Andrew Hutton, Caroline Johnson MP, Nick Gibb, Nick Law. EMN-210624-145315001

“The population is increasing and the proportion of children passing the 11-plus is going up. We need to expand the number of places in the grammar schools sector and a new school building will help that as well as making things easier for cycling and drop-off times in the town centre.”

She said the new site would be linked by cycling and walking facilities to the town centre, making the area more pleasant and safe.

Dr Johnson said it would provide many extra facilities on the new site, adding that the plan was to have younger children still taught in single-sex classes, as that was seen to work best, while older children at GCSE and A-level would be taught in mixed sex groups, largely as they are now within the Joint Sixth Form.

The new, 45 acre, campus-style site on agricultural land currently owned by Rauceby Estates to the west of the A15 and north of Drove Lane, would be accessed off a new roundabout from the A15 already proposed to serve the urban extension to the north west of the town.

L-R Nick Law, Caroline Johnson MP, Nick Gibb, Andrew Hutton. EMN-210624-145413001

The site would also comprise football, cricket and rugby pitches and an athletics track. There would be a large main hall/lecture theatre, indoor sports hall/fitness studios and a wetland/sports lake area.