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DARLINGTON EDUCATION VILLAGE IS FIRST PFI IN COUNTRY

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A£34.9m education village that will teach 1,900 pupils from the age of three to 16, is to be built in Darlington....
A£34.9m education village that will teach 1,900 pupils from the age of three to 16, is to be built in Darlington.

The new campus is to be built on the site of Haughton Community College and it will be the first in the country to be built under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).

Under the proposals for the education village, three schools - Haughton Community School, Beaumont Hill Special School and Springfield Primary School - are to be amalgamated on one site. The building will also include a nursery for three-year-olds. Each school within the scheme will retain its name, its identity and its own head teacher.

The school will be built on the playing fields at Haughton Community College. When the building is complete, the pupils will be transferred and the existing building will be demolished, the area will then be redeveloped as a play area.

The PFI scheme will see a private company build the school and run some of the services such as cleaning and maintenance but overall control would remain with Darlington BC, which is responsible for education services in the borough.

Geoff Pennington, Darlington BC's director of education, said: 'This building will provide a school for the 21st century in terms of facility and curriculum delivery. All modern requirements for ICT (information and communication technology) will be incorporated into the education village. As far as we are aware this is the first project of its kind in the country and that is why it has received so much support from the government.'

One of the main features of the development will be the inclusion of children with special needs from Beaumont Hill Special School. Mr Pennington added: 'Hopefully this education village will be an example of how integration can work.

As well as integrating children of different educational needs, there are plans to work with social services, the health authority and higher education to encourage family learning on the site.

With Beaumont Hill's special technology status and Haughton's arts college accreditation it is hoped pupils from all schools and the wider community will be able to enjoy improved facilities.

The PFI money will also pay for Harrowgate Hill Infant School to move to the site of its Junior School and refurbish the Junior School building to accommodate 500 pupils.

Private companies will be asked to bid for the work in February next year and it is hoped that the education village will be ready for the three schools to move into by September 2005.

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