We're warning residents that unless 2 'desperately-needed' new schools are built, hundreds of primary school children face long journeys or even leaving the borough for their secondary education.
By law, all councils must provide the number of school places needed for their areas. The number of primary school pupils in the borough show that new secondary schools are needed in Middleton and the Pennines area.
We are currently looking at possible sites. We must provide land for new schools following government changes to the way schools are run. If we do not provide land for the schools, it could cost local taxpayers £36 million.
Since the Academies Act (2010) and the Education Act (2011) came into effect, new schools must be independent of local authority control, and operated by government-approved academy trusts.
On Friday, 11 May 2018, the Department for Education (DfE) announced a bidding round for new free schools which would be funded by central government. The DfE has identified Middleton and the Pennines area as needing significantly more secondary school places.
The Rochdale Sixth Form College Academy Trust (Altus Education Partnership) is putting together a bid to open the 2 schools needed.
On Tuesday, 19 December 2017, we approved the release of council-owned land at Bowlee to be leased to the Altus Education Partnership for the building of a new secondary school in Middleton.
We have undertaken a review of possible sites in the Pennines area and identified 2 potential council-owned sites; Littleborough playing fields and Rutherford Park in Wardle Road. We are putting forward the site at Littleborough playing fields as the preferred site.
Should neither of the proposed bids be successful, we would be required to pay for the schools at a cost of at least £18 million each.
The potential sites being considered are the most suitable available to us, however any suitable alternative land offer (at nil cost) would be considered.
Councillor Allen Brett, our leader, said: "We know from the number of children at our primary schools that we desperately need these two new schools. We have no option but to provide the land because if we do not, we face the risk of children having nowhere to go when they leave their primary schools and having to pay a huge sum because we would lose the opportunity to bid for government funding.
"We know that people living near to the sites will have concerns but our hand is being forced by the government. If there are any alternative sites we would, of course, give them serious consideration."