School gets new start with £2m funding boost

Exterior of Sawtry Community College EMN-141126-130056009
Exterior of Sawtry Community College EMN-141126-130056009
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A school whose former headmaster was jailed for fraud after setting up a ‘sex dungeon’ in his office has been given a £2 million boost to address serious health and safety concerns in the buildings.

Cambridgeshire County Council’s children and young persons committee voted in favour of proposals to invest £2million towards redevelopment of Sawtry Village Academy at a meetingon Tuesday.

In September, Sawtry Village Academy launched its New Building Strong Future campaign to put right the crimes of the past following the sentencing of the college’s former headteacher James Stewart and give the Sawtry community the school they deserve.

The money will see the most affected buildings in the school being demolished and replaced by a purpose-built new school building, which will include about 18 classrooms. These plans have already received planning permission.

Sarah Wilson, principal of Sawtry Village Academy, said: “We are delighted by the support the community and the county council has given the school. The decision to contribute £2million towards the first phase of rebuilding the school will have a significant impact on the students and the community now and in the future.

“We still need to refurbish the other buildings in the school to rectify the mistakes of the previous leadership and we are calling on the community to help us present our exceptional circumstances to the decision makers within the Department for Education. However, this is an excellent first step to help us put the past behind us and move forward with optimism and positivity.”

The college, formerly known as Sawtry Community College, was previously led by Stewart who was headteacher of the college for almost 30 years until he resigned in disgrace in 2014 when the school was placed in special measures and subjected to an Education Funding Agency investigation.

In October 2017 he was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to six counts of fraud by abuse of position, amounting to more than £100,000, and one count of misconduct in public office.

The court heard Stewart used school funds to refurbish his office, turning it into a ‘sex dungeon,’ as well as using funds for personal trips and other items.

The school has already received more than 1,300 pledges of support from the local community, with many local residents writing to their councillors, MP and the Department for Education asking for action to make funding available to make the vital improvements.