BUCKS County Council has submitted a £28 million proposal to the Government which would give High Wycombe a new secondary school and three or four new primary schools to replace outdated buildings, if approved in principle.

The bid, called the East Wycombe Community Schools Project, is currently in outline form only. It would be funded under the government's private finance initiative (PFI) and mean that a private contractor would build the schools and maintain them for the next 25 years.

It is the first major scheme of its kind for the county and the first bid for PFI money for the county's education system.

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If the government approves the outline plan, expected in the spring, the council will then start detailed design work, but it would be another year before a detailed design is done.

Bob Gibbard, the schools advisory officer for Wycombe, said: "It would be marvellous if the bid was successful."

Schools in east Wycombe needed it, he told the Free Press, adding that Bucks County Council could not afford such a major project.

Since 1997, 327 PFI contracts have been signed for new schools and school improvements in 490 schools. Schools minister Catherine Ashton said another £2 billion had been allocated to PFI projects yet to be signed.

Marion Clayton, county council cabinet member for schools, said something had to be done to restructure schools in east Wycombe.

The bid includes a brand new Highcrest Upper School building with an adult education centre and new combined schools, either on existing sites or new ones.

The idea started because of failing schools in the area and the fact that people were taking their children elsewhere. Most of the area's seven primary schools had falling rolls. They had space for more than 1,600 children, but last April had 1,136 pupils on roll.

The Wycombe Commission was set up by the county council to find some answers.

That resulted in the closure of Hatters Lane Upper School in August and its reopening in September as Highcrest, under the government's Fresh Start scheme with new buildings and extra money.

The commission recommended a new school building at Highcrest, creating four combined schools, all with nursery places and community facilities.

This meant closing Bowerdean Nursery and redistributing the 80 places there to other schools. Other proposals were to amalgamate Kings Wood Infants with Kings Wood Junior on the junior school site.

This is happening in September, but the PFI bid envisages a new school building.

Beechview Junior and Hannah Ball Infants could combine on the Beechview site or even move to part of the Highcrest site.

Marsh Infants would become a combined school, possibly on a new site, and Ash Hill Combined would remain a combined school.