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Ministers approve Sir James Dyson’s £6m donation to state primary school

A £6 million donation from Sir James Dyson to his local state primary school has been given the green light by the Government.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has approved the donation from the billionaire inventor to build a centre for science, technology, engineering, mathematics (Stem) and arts at Malmesbury Church of England primary school in Wiltshire.

The expansion at the school would see purpose-built rooms equipped for design, technology, art, science and mathematics-based activities, as well as additional classrooms.

If planning permission is approved by Wiltshire Council, it is expected to be open from September 2027, the Department for Education (DfE) said.

In November, Sir James announced a £35 million donation to his former fee-paying school – Gresham’s School in Holt, Norfolk – which allowed him to continue his studies there for free after the death of his father.

In a letter to The Times last year, Sir James said his donation to Malmesbury Church of England primary school had been blocked by officials – a claim denied by Downing Street.

The billionaire businessman said he had been trying to give a grant to the state school through his charitable foundation to help with the building of its new science and technology centre and expansion by 210 places.

“But the local authority and Department for Education say no, citing the risk of other schools having insufficient numbers,” Sir James wrote in the letter to The Times in October.

Announcing the approval of the donation on Monday, Ms Keegan said: “I welcome this generous donation from the Dyson Foundation which will support cutting edge education for local pupils, helping to develop the scientists and engineers of the future.

“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.

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Last year Sir James announced a £35 million donation to his former fee-paying school, Gresham’s School in Holt, Norfolk, which allowed him to continue his studies there for free after the death of his father (Jeff Overs/PA)

“The £6 million donation builds on the work we have been doing to boost the uptake of Stem subjects in schools and through apprenticeships and further education, boosting growth and opportunity in these vital sectors.”

A James Dyson Foundation spokesman said: “The Secretary of State’s approval is conditional on the local authority approving the school’s expansion before any building work can commence, which takes us back to square one.”

Wiltshire Council has raised concerns around having all the investment in one location, and the impact that the expansion of pupil numbers at Malmesbury Primary School could have on neighbouring schools.

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.

“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.”