Secondary school places concern for parents in Elmbridge

September 3, 2013
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The battle to address a lack of school places in Elmbridge goes on as birth rates continue to rise in the borough.

Between 2002 and 2010, births in Elmbridge shot up by 28.9%, and as a result of this demand Surrey County Council plans to provide more state school places.

This year the council has increased the number of reception class places, along with a mixture of temporary and permanent classes, and by 2016 it plans to supply another four forms of entry.

Secondary school places will also increase in demand, and Esher High School is due to expand by 2015, Heathside in Weybridge by 2016 and Rydens Academy in Hersham will be rebuilt by its trust to accommodate eight forms of entry.

Peter Hickman, Surrey county councillor and a governor at Cranmere School, Esher, and Thames Ditton Junior School, said parents had been contacting him with worries about places.

He said: “All the contact lately has been about secondary places.”

Cllr Hickman explained that if a Cranmere School planning application was successful, this would help ease the problem.

He said: “There are obviously issues that all the parents are concerned with, school places and the distance they have to travel.

“From an organisational point of view it is quite a problem but the trouble is people do like to send their children to school as close as possible.”

Asked if the policy of expanding schools rather than building new ones was correct, Cllr Hickman said: “It is often discussed but every time it is discussed you have a look at the land in this particular part of Elmbridge and there isn’t any.

“In terms of secondary education I think councillors are putting a bit of hope on the secondary school in Cobham, we will wait to see what happens.”

Free schools

Around 1,590 new reception pupils, aged four and five, will start school in the borough this week.

Approximately 1,254 pupils will move into Year 3 and 864 into the first year of secondary school, Year 7.

Across Elmbridge, fewer parents have been opting for independent education as a result of the recession, and applications for places in high performing state schools have soared as a result.

For September 2013 the council received 1,557 on-time applications for reception class places in Elmbridge.

At the beginning of the year there was space for only 1,463 so additional provisions were made in time for the September admission.

Benedict Martin, estates development director at St Andrew’s CofE Primary School in Cobham and a former governor, thinks a focus on free schools could go some way towards solving the problem.

Mr Martin said: “You have got parents in Thames Ditton short of secondary places and parents in Claygate, but to take on the running of a secondary school is a big thing.

“It is about working together because otherwise children miss out.

“We know we need extra primary places but most of those children are not yet born. But with secondary places, those children are all born.

“Secondary place provision is much easier to do with the planning. We know the scale of the problem, but obviously there are children coming into the area as well.”

The issues were discussed at Surrey County Council and Elmbridge Borough Council’s Local Committee meeting on Monday.

Members heard a report on school place planning strategy for the borough, including analysis of whether places are sufficient.

The meeting covered the immediate and medium-term strategy for resolving school place planning and admissions issues, as well as the longer term strategy based on forecast data.

The report also included a summary of the financial and legal context of school place planning in Surrey.

Article source: http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/local-news/secondary-school-places-concern-parents-5815032


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