Keep up the fight for new schools

SADDLEWORTH: We cannot 'make do' with existing site and must unite around a solution for the sake of young people.
SADDLEWORTH SCHOOL: We cannot ‘make do’ with the existing site and must unite around a solution for the sake of young people.

WE HAVE a great story to tell about new school buildings in our Borough.

Many fantastic new facilities which have created a first class learning environment for so many of our young people in recent times.

Clearly it takes more than just a shiny new building to provide good education.

But poor quality buildings can also hamper good teaching and learning, especially in terms of getting from classroom to classroom.

Oldham did well from the previous PFI and Building Schools for the Future (BSF)  programmes which gave us new schools at Failsworth, Radcliffe, Oldham North Academy, Oasis Academy, Blessed John Henry Newman, Waterhead Academy and at North Chadderton.

But that now leaves Hathershaw, Saddleworth and Royton & Crompton without new facilities due to the cancellation of the BSF programme mid-stream.

Worse than that it leaves two of those schools with completely substandard buildings. Great teaching and aspiration being let down by poor facilities.

We now have a chance with Saddleworth School to right that wrong.

Is this without challenges? No.

We have a number of important issues to address to make sure the scheme works, but it is interesting to see how the supporters and objectors are beginning to settle.

I pay tribute to those Councillors, residents and the school itself for riding the storm of initial objection to get behind the scheme although clearly – given Saddleworth Parish Council’s decision this week to back a group of opposing residents – much still remains to be done to forge a united front.

I wouldn’t say that those people opposed to these proposals don’t have genuine concerns, because they do.

Clearly there are issues about the impact of the school on Diggle, including highways and transport concerns as well as other practical considerations.

Concerns have also been raised about the funding being made available by Government and we take those comments on board too.

It has been a difficult process for all concerned and it is far from over.

The timescales have been tight and until we had secured an option to purchase the Diggle site we were caught up in commercial negotiations which restricted our ability to publicly confirm the site.

It did feel odd a few weeks ago to be attending a public meeting about the new school when we couldn’t confirm the site – and where most of the questions, understandably, were directly related to the suitability of the site.

It hasn’t been easy to get to this stage.

It’s taken a great deal of Council resources to get Saddleworth School onto the Government list for consideration. We’re now within months of final approval and must remain united in doing what is right for our young people.

Any suggestion that we can wait for more money to magically appear, or that a change of government might transform the situation, or that we can just ‘make do’ with the current site would be a failure too far.

If you need proof of that you need only look at the local example of Royton & Crompton.

This is a fantastic school for teaching and learning but is set in a building which lets the Borough down.

It was due to be replaced as part of the BSF programme but fell victim to government cutbacks.

Now the Borough is dealing with the real cost of that: a building that requires £2m of urgent works just to repair the roof and electrical system.

All of that £2m spend will be hidden, of course. It will do the minimum required to keep the building usable but for the young people and teachers the school will look and feel exactly the same – and that just isn’t good enough.

We need to fight for a new school for Royton & Crompton and this Council is committed to securing the best deal for all our young people.

Education is the greatest investment any community can make in its future.

We’ve made good progress to date but there is still much to do and – as we create the new Oldham – first-class schools and education are central to that vision.

Thanks for listening,


8 thoughts on “Keep up the fight for new schools

  1. Dear Cllr Jim McMahon
    We as residents of Saddleworth are passionate about the future education of our children but we also want to leave the heritage of Saddleworth to our children. I think the proposed plan isn’t just a little local difficulty but a democratic catastrophe.

    Attending the Civic Hall meeting I saw Oldham’s CEO give us an arrogant “take it or leave it” statement, the School’s Head Teacher making a scare mongering summary which seemed to go against the schools latest OFSTED report.

    I do feel you were shocked at the anger at that meeting. When you were elected I was excited to see a young politician with integrity and energy at the helm but in the end it was all the same. Democracy is fine in principle but its gets in the way of us i.e. OMBC doing what we want to do. In the end what I witnessed was a community rip itself apart. This isn’t just a little planning problem its destroying a rural heritage, that you as a dynamic leader should be helping us protect. Because once you destroy it you will never get it back.

    You might want to know that over 6400 comments have hit the SDAG Facebook feed in just a week. 99% of those comments are against OMBC plans to built the school in Diggle and would support the council wholeheartedly in rebuilding the school on the present Uppermill site.

  2. a saddleworth school student from diggle

    It is unfair on people from diggle like me who have not been given enough time to voice their concerns which the school and council continue to ignore, even if you’re also a student at the school!

  3. Laura Birch

    There are many many issues with the ‘proposed’ building of Saddleworth School in Diggle, but one major issue which I can find no real answers to is the traffic/access issue. Can you please provide me with or direct me to the traffic survey which I assume must have been completed due to the huge increase in traffic volume and the single track road.

    i await you response

    Laura Birch

  4. joy

    why spend a limited budget devastating a unique and beautiful landscape and environment when the money could be better spent re-buliding the school on its present site – why waste the money on new roads, new infrastructure in the wrong place when that money could be spent into making sure the school is the best it can be, where it already is

    if you are teaching the students at saddleworth school that it is ok to ruin an environment unnecessarily then this is a monumental mistake in the making

    if this building of the school in Diggle goes ahead what a dreadful ethic to teach these students that environment just doesn’t matter and that ‘a school here at any cost with no regard to the residents’ is ethical and social progress – not good at all

  5. Phil Cordingley

    You clearly have no regard for the residents of Diggle. You are putting the safety of both residents and pupils at risk as I know just how much traffic presently uses the road passing the site.I hope if this idiotic choice of site went ahead that no fatalities occur in the future. Like others, I am thinking after 30yrs in Diggle it might be time to pay Council Tax elsewhere if your plan is adopted.

  6. Mrs M A Gregory

    Now that the information that the new saddleworth school can be built on the same site is available surely this throws all debate back to the council.. Where has the misinformation that has appeared in print come from? What is your stance on the truthfulness of what we are asked to believe?

  7. Thank you for your comments. It isn’t possible to respond individually but we will soon be uploading a FAQ on the proposals which we hope will address many of the points raised.

  8. Bev

    I echo Laura’s points, the traffic and access is a major concern. Diggle residents have an absolute right to air their views on all matters and receive answers.

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