Ilkley Grammar School has spelled out the thinking behind its planned move to Ben Rhydding, in the wake of calls to redevelop on its current site.

Concerned members of the community have written letters to the Ilkley Gazette in recent weeks, asking why the school cannot be redeveloped using land on Springs Lane, if the Coronation Hospital is rebuilt elsewhere.

The school’s facilities have now been extended to their limit and there is no alternative but to move on to a new site.

Statement from Ilkley Grammar School

Residents have questioned the impact of a large new school building on the area around Wheatley Holmes, Wheatley Lane. A ‘scoping’ trial planning application for the Ben Rhydding school is currently being studied by Bradford Council planners.

Ilkley Grammar School, headteacher, Gillian James, last week spoke out, saying she appreciates residents’ concerns, but explaining the shortfalls of the Cowpasture Road school site and the benefits of building a new school on a bigger site.

The school has issued a lengthy statement detailing the reasons behind the proposed move to Ben Rhydding, as put forward by Bradford Council.

Building on the Coronation Hospital site would solve none of the most pressing problems, it was claimed.

In its statement, the school said: “Ilkley Grammar School has been on the Cowpasture Road site since 1893 and perhaps this is the problem: trying to educate 21st century students in a 19th century and mid-20th century build with split-site playing fields. “The school’s facilities have now been extended to their limit and there is no alternative but to move on to a new site. Bradford had few options but the one they selected, since the land is council owned.”

The school’s playing fields are on Coutances Way, close to the proposed rebuild site. There would be more children and no extra play space if the Coronation Hospital site was used, says the school.

Environmentally unfriendly coal-fired boilers in the current building, difficult access for wheelchairs on the sloping Cowpasture Road site, and the question of where to move students while the building work is done were all cited as problems with expanding onto the Coronation Hospital land.

Parents in Addingham and Menston are subject to a lottery for places at Ilkley Grammar each year, says the school, because it is oversubscribed.

“The size of the school does matter to parents of Addingham and those at Menston whose children attend a Bradford primary school,” said the school in it statement.

“There is no other secondary school for Addingham in particular, unless they travel all the way across to Greenhead at Keighley. By increasing the grammar school entry by one form, they can be assured of places in the future. The present building, however, cannot incorporate these extra numbers.”

The need to take in more sixth formers is another reason, says Ilkley Grammar. Eighty per cent of Year 11 students at the school achieve five or more GCSEs at Grade C or above, yet the school can only accommodate 60 per cent of them post-GCSE.

“The school therefore needs to expand beyond its current 340,” said the school.

“The government agenda is for all children to stay on in education or training until the age of 18 by 2013. “Ilkley Grammar School is the school of choice for many of these students and it will have to meet this increase in demand.”

The advent of new Diploma qualifications, too, means post-16 student numbers are set to rise to 450, although this is said to be in the hands of the education authority, not the school itself.

Ilkley Grammar said it would welcome views from across the community about the school rebuild in advance of its Outline Business Case.

“Understandably most views expressed in the Gazette are from those who would be most directly affected,” said the school.

“The school would welcome other views as well, from both existing and prospective parents and community users. “They are more than happy to discuss any issues in advance of the Outline Business Case and to share their proposals with anyone who wishes to contact them at the school.”