Suffolk plans for new schools to cope with population growth

Lisa Chambers - backing education growth.

Lisa Chambers - backing education growth. - Credit: Archant

Suffolk could need 23 new schools to cope with its population growth over the next 15 to 20 years, councillors will be told next week.

And another 25 schools will need substantial expansions to deal with increasing pupil numbers.

The county council’s cabinet will discuss the Education Infrastructure Plan at next week’s meeting which will look at the impact of housing growth across the county on Suffolk’s schools.

It says that three new high schools could possibly be needed. A new secondary school at Moreton Hall in Bury St Edmunds is already in the pipeline and a new high school is included in the masterplan for the Ipswich northern fringe development.

There could also be the need for a new secondary school at Martlesham as part of the new Adastral Park village if that is given the go-ahead by Suffolk Coastal.

The paper also sees the need for up to 20 new primary schools across the county. They would be dotted around Suffolk, but would be likely to be concentrated in hotspots in Ipswich, north Lowestoft and the Forest Heath district.

The paper has detailed population projections extending until 2025 – they see the population of the county’s primary schools increasing from 53,000 to about 55,500 and in secondary schools (11-16) the numbers would increase from 36,500 to about 40,000.

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It is not possible to give accurate estimates of school-age population beyond 2025 because that would depend on the number of new homes built in the county and the demographics of the population.

The county currently runs 232 primary schools, eight middle schools and 13 secondary schools. There are also 20 primary academies, two middle school academies, 27 secondary academies and six free schools in Suffolk – none of them are directly run by the council.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer is also parliamentary private secretary to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.

He was aware of a population bulge that was going to be feeding through the county’s education system – and said it was particularly vital that a new high school was built on the Northern Fringe early in the area’s development.

He said: “That school needs to be up and running by 2020 but we have to persuade the borough that is a priority otherwise there will be serious problems in the area.”

Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education, said: “It is vital that we take a long-term view when it comes to the provision of local school places, especially when any new housing development is being considered.

“We need to work closely with the district and borough councils to ensure that education is at the top of the priority list when these developments are agreed.”

The county recently had to threaten Ipswich council with a judicial review over a planning decision on a new housing development that did not make a large enough contribution to new school provision.

Suffolk County Council Labour spokeswoman on education Sonia Barker said it was vital that the county set out where the money would come from for new schools and extensions to existing buildings.

She said: “I shall be at the meeting to ask exactly how this would be funded. And I will also be concerned to ensure that the schools are built where they are needed.

“They are talking about a hotspot in north Lowestoft but are not looking at a new high school in the area. I don’t know that there is existing capacity in that area. I shall be asking questions on this.”

The cabinet will be discussing building new schools at its meeting at Endeavour House in Ipswich next Tuesday.

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