Cockburn School plans to be scrutinised

Councillors approved the £6.8 million development of Cockburn School at the Executive Board meeting this afternoon, but Cllr Carter pledged to have the decision ‘called in’ for scrutiny.

As we reported last week, the proposals will see a ten-classroom block built to accommodate a two form ‘bulge cohort’ over the next five years. It will also see the school’s playing fields expanded onto land that formed part of the former South Leeds Golf Club.

Cllr Andrew Carter, leader of the Conservative Group on the Council, said he was “astonished” at the costs involved, compared to plans for other schools in Leeds either taking bulge cohorts or expanding permanently.

“I think we’ve been taken for a ride” he said. “I think this has come about because over generous promises were made and officers have been required to redeem those promises, and the result of that is the academy chain were able to ask for more money beyond their wildest dreams.”

Officers explained that the scheme was so expensive because it sought to deal with historic issues at Cockburn. Cost savings made when the school was rebuilt in 2010 meant it was undersized for the number of children, which had risen since then from 1,050 to 1,200 and there was no spare capacity within the existing building. Additionally Cockburn was already short of playing field space on site, which would be made worse by the new building having to be built over tennis courts.

Cllr Jonathan Pryor, Executive Board member for Learning, Skills & Employment, planted the blame for the current situation firmly with the Government.

“The primary reason of the costs for Cockburn is because the government failed to deliver Laurence Calvert School. We knew this bulge was there, we knew we needed an entire new school, that school was supposed to open in September 2019 and it hasn’t. And it hasn’t because the Government has not been listening to the Council when we’ve been saying we needed it. They’ve pushed it back, they pushed it back again, and they pushed it back again.

“We are in a place where we need places where the only schools available to expand are very difficult to expand because they’ve already expanded several times. That’s why the cost is that much higher.”

Cllr Judith Blake, leader of the Council, asked for an update on the opening of the Laurence Calvert Academy saying

“We cannot carry on letting down families and young people across the south of Leeds in this way. It’s deeply irresponsible of the Dept (of Education), we’ve done everything to move things forward, we’ve moved our Highways offices out of the building (to make the site ready).”

Officers confirmed that the Department for Education had indicated that they would allow Laurence Calvert to open on a temporary site in September 2021 and that they would meet the costs of facilitating this.

As well as being examined by a Scrutiny Board, the project will have to apply for planning permission, at which point residents can comment in favour or against the plans.

The meeting was live streamed and a video of the whole discussion will be available in due course at:


17 Replies to “Cockburn School plans to be scrutinised”

  1. Councillor Carter has shown some common sense in questioning this deal. Unfortunately other councillors continue to regurgitate some old twaddle about school places. Yes 60 extra school places are required in September but 60 children do not require 7.4 acres of greenbelt. At the meeting there was mention of the Tennis court that would need reinstating after the new building is built. However, there was no mention that Cockburn are actually building a car park on their land instead of the Tennis Court. There is absolutely no need for a land transfer solely for a PE dept when extra facilities are available at John Charles Centre for Sport. PE staff at the school must also lack imagination if they cannot find a way to get the children active in Middleton Park. The ease of access to Middleton Park from Beeston will be reduced if this deal goes ahead and an aesthetically pleasing landscape will be destroyed.

    1. When Cockburn was rebuilt some years ago, on an already constricted site, the pupil admission number – i.e. number of pupils in each year – stood at 210. From this September that number per year will have risen to 300. Do the maths SG and you will see that we are taking about considerably more than 90 children over the whole school. The numbers are not twaddle. As to PE lessons taking place in the park, schools do more these days than skip around maypoles. Could SG suggest where the equipment that is necessary to fulfil the National Curriculum wold be kept, or does SG expect the staff and students to carry it all from the school to the park and back again. PE lessons at Cockburn last for 50 minutes. In a previous article SG suggested that pupils should walk to the John Charles Centre, whilst pointing out that it only takes 15 minutes to walk there. It does of course also take 15 minutes to walk back, and we have to add changing times to this . Again, do the maths SG. I also fail to see how “an aesthetically pleasing landscape” comprising 600 acres is destroyed by a football pitch. But I suppose SG would much rather that the education of children in south Leeds should be compromised than the moles SG eulogised in a previous article should be disturbed. God forbid that children should come before moles.

  2. School have to follow the national curriculum dictated by the government for PE and I can’t believe you think the PE department lacks imagination, your suggestion that by asking the pupils to go in the woods and pick flowers, surely this will not result in successful sports stars of the future.

    SG makes the suggestion that pupils should be walked to the John Charles Sports Centre, ignoring any safety issues involved in this remarkable suggestion, stated in the article that it “is only a 15 minute walk to this sports facility through the woods from the school”.  Also of course a 15 minute walk back. Presumably SG has no idea that school PE lessons last for 50 minutes. The math is simple – a 30 minute walk there and back, time out to get changed and changed back, leaving maybe 10 minutes for a PE lesson and also forgetting about the cost to use the sport centre with schools under extreme pressure with reducing budgets.

    1. This school already has lots of unused space in the form of playing fields. Why on earth does it need more? Come and have a look around the back, there is a football pitch, rugby pitch and lots of unused greenery. Why not develop what it already has?

      Typically, because its Beeston it, it doesn’t reallly matter. How about a proposal to steal some of Roundhay park to extend a school, would that be so readily approved by councillors?

      1. There is no unused space on the Cockburn site, which as you will have read in the above article was undersize for the number of pupils years ago, and is now even more pressed with the large numbers of extra pupils that the school has taken. The original G3 pitch was built because the bottom pitch at Cockburn is often unusable during the winter as it is waterlogged. Sports England will not allow that pitch to be built over as an extra 3G pitch, as it is against the removal of grass pitches, no matter what the replacement is. Incidentally, I’m not too sure what “lots of unused greenery” actually is.

  3. Pardon my terminology Henry. Basically, lots of unused greenery is green space at the back of the school, within school grounds, which is unused, and there is lots of it. I know this, because my house backs on to it. Does yours? I see everyday how much of the land is used.

    A full sized football pitch which can accommodate at most 22 pupils at anyone time? Come on Henry, who’s paying you?

    Your argument of Sports England being against the removal of grass pitches is laughable. Who in this day and age can justify tearing down trees instead of uprooting turf?

    1. I resent your inference that I am paid to post on here – if you can’t post without being insulting it would be better if you didn’t post at all.
      Take a look at an aerial shot of the school of the school Robin and you will see that there is no room for another pitch.
      Below is taken from the Sport England website (This is the link :
      “The Playing fields policy :
      Sport England will oppose the granting of planning permission for any development which would lead to the loss of, or would prejudice the use of:
      all or any part of a playing field, or
      land which has been used as a playing field and remains undeveloped, or
      land allocated for use as a playing field”

      1. I resent the fact that someone is in favour tearing down trees and destroying a historic footpath in my back yard, in order to build a car park and move some playing areas around. The suggestion of Hunslet Nelson is excellent, yet the backers of this plan hit back with ‘its not a football pitch’. Why does it have to be a football pitch?

        As previously stated, this school has lots of outdoor and for that matter indoor sports areas. The suggestion that this isn’t enough isn’t supported by the fact of the amount of time that these playing areas are actually used.

        As said previously, a full size football pitch can accommodate 22 pupils if used as a football pitch. So, you do the maths. How can the the entire school take advantage of it?

        If it isn’t going to be used as a football pitch, then sure you can get 100,s of kids on it. But then it isn’t a football pitch, its more like the existing school ground, which is grass that children can run and play on.

        1. How can the entire school take use of it? Because they don’t all use it at once of course. And of course you can resent my point of view, but you can’t deny that I am entitled to it.

        2. Leeds Ramblers are looking at the planning application for the school extension (20/03457) with a view to commenting on the effect of the application on Footpath Leeds 207 (which is also a permissive Bridleway). A site visit showed that a substantial section of the path, likely to be affected by the application, is paved in heritage stone setts. Map research suggests that this was because the lane served as access to the long-demolished Park Side Farm. We are keen to know the views of local residents about this path. Please text 07790 631198 to make further contact to discuss the issue.

  4. Why can’t they ask to use Hunslet Nelson Cricket pitch opposite the school for additional capacity during the school day.

  5. Lynette makes a good comment. Sharing resources is sensible. Cricket is an excellent game. Pity the school didn’t develop golf lessons for pupils too before the Club folded. Henry says that Sport England will not allow the development of a water logged pitch. Just don’t tell them Henry, keep them in the dark about it, just like the school tried to keep the community in the dark with plans for the golf course land.

    1. I would only suggest to you that Hunslet Cricket Club would not be happy with football/rugby taking place on their wicket! No cricket club would. As it is the school already has links over cricket with the Hunslet club. How has the school tried to keep plans for a pitch on the golf club secret? There have already been two reports in this paper about the development and a report in the Yorkshire Post.
      I am astonished that anyone would suggest that the school’s pupils should be taught golf. Do you know how expensive it is? Almost 55% of the school’s pupils are on free school meals – (that makes it one of the deprived school intakes in Leeds) – and I might add that these have been continued during the present pandemic. All that is needed now is red herrings regarding golf. Why don’t you set up a Save the Golf Club web site? Maybe it’s because no one played golf that the club closed.

  6. When will expansion and development of Cockburn stop? Residents were here long before Cockburn arrived, but how school expansion affects residents seems to be considered very secondary to the requirements of the school! The effect on the local estate from extra traffic/parking alone over the years has been detrimental to the peace and safety of residents, and the installation of the 3G pitch inevitably led to increased disturbance for residents particularly near the playing field during usage out of school times. Does any of this matter to those making the decisions who don’t have to live in the area? It would seem not! Leeds Council Tax is paid by those same local residents whose objections are ignored!

    1. Some residents were, but none of those near the golf course were – the school was here years ago. Leeds council tax is also paid by the large number of parents who, because of the space shortage, objected to their children being sent out of the area to other schools. They could also be amongst your neighbours couldn’t they? Not everyone is against this scheme, and they are as entitled to their opinion as you are.

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