COUNCIL chiefs are set to give the green light for Wilmslow High School to expand with 300 new places next week.

Cllr Kathryn Flavell, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for children and families, is expected to sign off the £12 million project on Monday, April 6.

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But the move comes despite a recent application for a new free school, called The Handforth College, which council bosses fear could lead to Wilmslow High School's expansion becoming 'a serious waste of use of public funding'.

Wilmslow High School, which was rated 'good' by Ofsted last May, has been oversubscribed for the last three years – while Wilmslow and Handforth's population is expected to grow in the years ahead.

A council report published online says: “As the strategic commissioner of school places, CEC has a statutory duty to ensure a sufficiency of school places for children resident in its area.

“An analysis of the latest pupil forecasts identified the need to provide additional secondary school places in Wilmslow in response to increasing pupil numbers.

“The headteacher and governing body of the school are fully supportive of the proposed increase of Wilmslow High School and have confirmed their continued commitment to support their growing local community.”

Wilmslow High School currently has places for 1,500 students from Year 7 to Year 11.

This project will see that figure rise by 60 per year group from September 2023, taking the total capacity for 11 to 16-year-olds to 1,800.

CEC says that the school already has a shortage of 111 places and that would rise to 257 by 2025 without expansion.

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Expansion is the council's preferred option to deliver more school places in SK9 – which will gain 1,500 new homes at the Handforth Garden Village alone – rather than building a separate school in the area.

However, a separate application to build a 750-capacity free school in Handforth for 11 to 16-year-olds from the Frank Field Education Trust – which runs Handforth Grange Primary School – was lodged with the Department for Education earlier this year.

In response to that application, Jacky Forster, director of education and skills at CEC, said: "CEC is already committed to a significant capital investment into Wilmslow High School and this work is well underway in terms of planning and feasibility.

"Agreeing to a new 750 place school could result in pupils from Wilmslow High School moving to the new school which is in the process of being expanded to the estimated value of £12 million. This would be a serious waste of use of public funding."

The move also comes despite CEC receiving 51 objections to the expansion during consultation earlier this year.

Among the concerns were fears that the higher number of pupils could impact on the quality of education and lead to overcrowding on the site, while there were also concerns about congestion surrounding the school.

In response to the concerns, CEC says that Wilmslow High School's recent Ofsted rating and performance table results prove it is committed to quality education.

It also says that a full review of travel arrangements at the school will be carried out, while the expanded school will have 'sufficient facilities' for the curriculum, in addition to a new wellbeing hub.

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CEC previously ringfenced £9 million for the project, but a feasibility study found that the total cost is likely to be £12 million – including more than £3 million from developer contributions.

Cllr Amanda Stott, cabinet member for finance, ICT and communication, will be asked to sign off the extra funds at a later date.

Frank Field Education Trust was approached for comment.