Wiltshire Council has warned Sir James Dyson’s recently approved £6 million donation to a primary school could threaten “the survival” of neighbouring schools.

The James Dyson Foundation offered the donation to Malmesbury C of E Primary School in June 2022 to allow it to expand by adding a further 210 pupils.

The school plans to use the money to fund the construction of a new centre for science, technology, engineering, art and maths (STEAM) centre, seven classrooms and a school hall.

But the scheme has faced objections from Wiltshire councillors who raised concerns that such a large investment in one school, and the subsequent creation of new school places, could impact the survival of other primary schools in the area.

This led the school to submit a “significant change” application to the Department for Education last June and, following a seven-month wait, this was approved on Monday, January 22.

The conditional approval of the grant and expansion is dependent on Malmesbury Primary School agreeing the process with Wiltshire Council and other local schools, says The Dyson Foundation.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Designs for the planned expansionDesigns for the planned expansion (Image: The James Dyson Foundation)

This has sparked concern that any future development could be thwarted.

A James Dyson Foundation spokesperson said: “The Secretary of State’s approval is conditional on the Local Authority allowing the school’s expansion, which takes us back to square one.”

While Wiltshire Council welcomed the contribution, it remains concerned about the school’s growth.

Cllr Laura Mayes, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We have an important responsibility to ensure all our school pupils can access opportunities that inspire them and help them achieve their potential.

“Our School Places Strategy is our long-term plan, based on clear evidence, which maps out how we will secure sufficient school places for the future.

“Our strategy shows we have sufficient places in the three local schools to cater for expected demand and we have expressed concern about the impact that adding 210 additional places at Malmesbury Primary School could have on neighbouring schools.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Malmesbury C of E Primary SchoolMalmesbury C of E Primary School (Image: The James Dyson Foundation.)

“However we now have the government’s final decision and we will work with everyone involved to ensure we achieve the best outcomes for all our pupils.”

The Department for Education confirmed the scheme had received the green light to ensure pupils had access to high-quality STEAM education.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: “This new centre will provide world-class facilities for pupils in Malmesbury and the surrounding areas to inspire them and develop the skills we need to compete on the world stage.”