December 12 2013 Latest news:
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Primary schools will cope with the growing demand for places, Suffolk’s education chief insisted last night.
Yesterday the Local Government Association (LGA) raised concerns that parts of the UK - including Suffolk - would struggle to provide the required places in the coming years due to a birthrate boom.
The LGA claims as many as two in three councils could see more children looking to start primary school in their area by September 2016 than there are currently available places.
It has warned that schools are already having to convert non-classroom space such as music rooms and libraries into classrooms and others have been forced to reduce playground sizes.
Four Ipswich Schools are already undergoing an expansion programme to accommodate the town’s growing population and discussions about plans for the west of the county will take place at Suffolk County Council’s cabinet next Tuesday.
The LGA claims that by the start of the academic year in 2015 schools in Newmarket will be over-subscribed by almost 100% - meaning there will be two pupils to every current available place.
David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA’s children and young people board, warned of a “desperate” shortage of school places.
He said: “Councils across the country have been increasing places by expanding schools where possible through additional classes or new buildings. However, without enough resource to provide places we are seeing some schools having to take extreme measures including converting non-classroom space.”
But Suffolk County Council says that as well as increasing spaces in Ipswich - at Hillside, St Margaret’s, Cliff Lane and Rushmere Hall - it is dealing with the situation in west Suffolk.
Lisa Chambers, the council’s head of education, skills and young people, said: “We know that there is going to be an increased demand for primary school places here in Suffolk, as is the case across the country. We are, however, prepared for this increase and are putting these proposed expansions in place to meet this demand.
“We are already beginning our plans to expand school places in the Ipswich area and the proposals in next week’s cabinet paper offer solutions to the increase in demand in the west of the county.
“We have worked closely with the schools, governing bodies and the local communities to develop these proposals and I am confident that the proposals set out offer sensible and informed solutions to meeting the demand for primary school places.”
The council says it is preparing to provide 70 additional places at Exning Primary and 105 places at Houdsworth Valley Primary - both in Newmarket - with an option to providing a further 105 places if necessary. And by September 2014, there will be an additional 175 primary places which could rise to 280 if necessary.
The council’s most recent forecast indicates that it has 1,527 primary age children in Newmarket with 1,555 places available.
By 2014 there will be 1,730 places, which can grow to 1,835 - sufficient to meet demand until 2017.
The statutory notices about the changes will be discussed during next week’s meeting.