EXTRA cash has been signed off to extend a school once deemed to be Barnsley’s most overcrowded primary after a ‘rise in energy and building costs’ put the £2.5m scheme over budget.

Birkwood Primary School, on Darfield Road in Cudworth, was the subject of a planning application which would see an extension built to form three new classrooms.

A new all-weather pitch will also be created, after plans were given the green light by the council’s planning board last year – though those plans could have been shelved after it was revealed rising costs had left the council with a decision to make.

Department for Education figures show the most crowded primary school in 2021 – around the time the scheme was first mooted – in Barnsley last year was Birkwood.

The school had 314 students on roll but 280 places meaning it was over capacity by 12 per cent.

It’s expected that more than 870 houses will be built in Cudworth in the next decade a 17 per cent increase prompting the council to provide more school places for residents in the area.

Birkwood is currently rated as outstanding by Ofsted and is the centre of the £2.5m scheme.

It has been confirmed this week the programme will continue, after £242,000 extra was signed off.

A report states: “A multi-phase scheme to increase the capacity of Birkwood Primary School from 280 pupils to 420 pupils commenced in April 2022, with further phases of work commencing in July 2022 and April 2023. The commencement of the scheme coincided with the sudden increase in building material costs following a rise in energy costs in the production and manufacturing process, which resulted in significantly higher tender prices across all phases of work.

“This has resulted in a shortfall of funding of £242,000 to deliver the final phase of works, the installation of a new all-weather sports pitch, to replace the existing playing field.

“This is a key element of the project and is required to ensure the school meets the external play requirements for a 420-place primary school and will provide all year round access to play and sports facilities at the school.”

The council have confirmed that they had considered not creating the new sports pitch, but instead decided to increase the funding for the scheme. A consideration was made to omit the installation of the sports pitch from the scheme, leaving the school with the existing playground and grassed playing field,” the report added.

“The playing field is often out of use over the winter and spring period because of the weather. It is regularly waterlogged, making it unsafe and unusable for pupils. The size of the tarmac playground isn’t sufficient for the larger school population.”