Questions to be answered over college ‘fiasco’

CLOSURE: CAPA announced it would not be taking take new students in September.
CLOSURE: CAPA announced it would not be taking take new students in September.

Education bosses are facing questions over the events leading up to a top performing arts school closing to new students.

Last week Cathedral Academy for Performing Arts (CAPA) said no new students could enrol this September.

CAPA had been unable to secure a premises for an expanded sixth form as part a new “free school” which would eventually take up to 500 students.

The existing Thornes Road college was to take its normal cohort of 50 students next term, but could not do so after the proposed Leeds city centre premises for the free school fell through.

Department for Education rules say free schools cannot be set up unless they have secured a permanent premises.

It has since emerged that a planning application on the Leeds site, One The Embankment, was refused due to traffic safety concerns last Tuesday.

Wakefield MP Mary Creagh has written to Education Secretary Justine Greening about the future of CAPA. Ms Creagh said she wanted to know why an alternative site was not secured by the government’s Education Funding Agency (EFA).

She wrote: “The fiasco has left CAPA college on the brink of closure and dozens of dedicated staff students unsure about their future.

“The closure of CAPA would damage the life chances of young people in Wakefield who aspire to go into the arts.”

The Leeds city centre premises is close to the route of the proposed HS2 rail link. Ms Creagh said: “Why did the EFA continue with the planning application after they were told the site would have a high speed rail line though it by 2032?”

She also asked whether the government had bought the Leeds building, thought to be worth around £10m.

Ms Creagh said: “If so, how much have they paid for the building?

“Or will the EFA pull out of the contract, losing millions of pounds of public money in the process?”

CAPA teamed up with Enhance Academy Trust to set up the free school.

Last week, Enhance said the new academy could still be up and running in 2018 if an alternative building was secured.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We are working with the trust to find an alternative site for the proposed new free school in the local area.

“The trust are identifying places for pupils nearby and to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.”

A Leeds City Council decision notice on the planning application said: “A lack of satisfactory pick-up and drop off facilities would lead to unsafe vehicle manoeuvring and localised congestion, which would be detrimental to pedestrian and vehicular safety.”