In 2017, Gloucestershire County Council’s Cabinet gave approval to establish a new 900-place 11-16yr secondary school in Cheltenham to meet the increased demand.
Funding was approved in 2018, with planning permission granted in 2020.
The new £30 million school opened in temporary accommodation at Balcarras School in September 2021. The new building is under construction and the school will relocate to the new site on Farm Lane in September 2022.
The school is run by Balcarras Academy Trust. Balcarras is a highly successful 11-18 school situated in the heart of the Charlton Kings area of east Cheltenham. Consistently rated outstanding by Ofsted, it has also been recognised by The Sunday Times as the most successful comprehensive school in the South West in 2017, 2018 and 2019, and has been named as The Sunday Times Southwest State Secondary School of the Decade in 2020.
The school opened to Year 7 pupils only in September 2021 as a 4 forms of entry school; this will rise to 5 and then 6 forms of entry with an eventual capacity of 900.
In preparation for the relocation of the school to its new site, plans for 2km of highways improvements have also been developed. A number of new highways improvements will be made in order to ensure the parents, carers, and pupils can access the school as easily as possible.
The improvements made to the highways network, including a new footway and off-road shared footway/cycleway along Kidnappers Lane that will provide a continuous link along the whole of the road, to promote sustainable travel to the site, and make it easier to travel to school by foot, on bike, and by bus.
Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk who recently visited the site said: “The school itself is the culmination of a seven-year vision. Back in 2015, having seen for myself the anxiety caused to Cheltenham parents by the lack of school places in the south of the town, I vowed to fight for a brand-new school.
“Cynics thought it could never happen. They claimed that Cheltenham would never be chosen by the Department for Education for millions of pounds of public money, having been overlooked for investment time and time again.
“They told me I should get used to expanding Bournside even further, or shoe-horning extra classrooms onto the tight Balcarras site – even though we all knew that wasn’t right for Cheltenham.
“Seven years later, those voices are silent. After a huge amount of effort, we secured the funding for the town. Now, an extraordinary £30m school is taking shape, one which will boost our reputation for educational excellence yet further. It will also light a fire under our shared mission for social mobility in Cheltenham – a mission which says it shouldn’t matter where you’re from in life, but where you’re going. Education is central to delivering that.
“And what a school it is! Although deliberately low-rise to be as unobtrusive as possible, it is hugely impressive. Large windows allow staff and children to catch breathtaking views of Leckhampton Hill, and a massive solar array on the roof will ensure the carbon footprint is minimised. And in a poignant and timely coincidence, all the wooden cladding in the amazing new sports hall comes from Ukraine.
“To go into politics is to set sail in seas which can capsize you. But just occasionally it enables the delivery of a better future for all.”