COPELAND’S MP has confirmed that Whitehaven Academy will not be part of a new £33 million education campus because its bosses pulled out of the scheme.

Jamie Reed says it is “regrettably true” that Bright Tribe – the trust that runs the academy – chose not to take part in the project that will now see state-of-the-art new-builds for neighbours St Benedict’s and Mayfield on the St Benedict’s site.

Mr Reed has echoed statements made in The Whitehaven News two weeks ago by Copeland mayor Mike Starkie and senior county councillor David Southward that Bright Tribe “explicitly chose” to withdraw from the scheme and was not, as trust bosses claimed, excluded by the partners.

The News understands that since the story broke, Bright Tribe has written to parents to say it “does not recognise” the version of events put forward by Mr Starkie and Coun Southward.

Mr Reed confirmed that he initiated talks two years ago between local government, industry and schools - including the then Whitehaven School – towards creating new school facilities.

When Whitehaven School became an academy in 2014, Bright Tribe opted out of the three-schools-on-one-site project to pursue a separate funding bid for its own new-build – which has so far been unsuccessful. The partners continued with a two-school plan involving only St Benedict’s and Mayfield which was confirmed last month when the final piece in the £33m funding pot was secured.

Mr Reed said: “The campus project has taken years to put together. It is being funded in a unique way and it is regrettably true that Bright Tribe chose not to take part. Why would all of the partners involved claim that this is the case if it isn’t true? I have no way of knowing if the governors, headteachers, staff, parents and pupils associated with Whitehaven Academy have been informed of the campus project or Bright Tribe’s decisions with regard to it at each step of the process.”

Each time The News has contacted Bright Tribe, it says it stands by its initial statement that it was “surprised at its exclusion” from the scheme, adding: “We have made it clear at every stage we are fully engaged and committed to this project for the benefit of our students and the community. We are also of the view the £33m funding available was significant enough to ensure all parties in these discussions could benefit fairly.”

Mr Reed added that, in 2008, he put together a proposal for Whitehaven School to become an academy at which point it would have received £30m funding for a new-build. He said: “Whitehaven School decided to turn down this investment and this stands as the greatest disappointment of my political career. I have supported Bright Tribe’s funding bids enthusiastically in writing, in telephone calls and in meetings with ministers. I have again this week written to ministers seeking investment for Whitehaven Academy.

“I will be approaching the school with a view to meeting with the staff, governors and parents. Whitehaven Academy does need investment, there is no doubt about that. Nothing is more important than the education of our children.”

It is planned that Mayfield and St Benedict’s will be built on the playing field behind the existing St Benedict’s School. The site will feature teaching facilities for both schools with shared facilities. The campus entrance will be via Moresby Road.