Council to create new school places after surge in demandBy Becky Barnes
October 23, 2012
Demand for primary school places in the borough is rocketing at four times the national average, according to a report by Bracknell Forest Council.
Work is now under way to create more places to cope with demand, which is predicted to increase by 24 per cent over the next five years, after councillors agreed the move at the executive meeting on Tuesday.
Dr Janette Karklins, director of children, young people and learning at Bracknell Forest Council, said pupil numbers were increasing nationally and it was predicted numbers would continue to increase in the borough, creating a shortfall of 843 primary places.
Based on the birth rate and housing growth assumptions, primary age pupil numbers in the borough are expected to increase by 2,075 from 8,714 to 10,789 by 2017 – which is double the national increase in half the time.
Councillor Dale Birch, executive member for adult social care and housing, said: “This is a very important subject and is key for parents. We must create new school places to keep pace with demand.”
The School Places Plan also pointed out a deficit of secondary school places in North Bracknell and proposed those who apply for these could be offered places more than three miles away from home.
Although there is a surplus of secondary school places across the borough until 2017, schools such as Garth Hill College are oversubscribed.
The proposed Blue Mountain school was due to meet the increase in school numbers, but because of delays in plans it is not expected to open until 2018 at the earliest.
Options being explored until a new secondary opens include offering pupils places at schools with surplus places such as Easthampstead Park School and paying for transport if they live more than three miles away.
If the council choose this option, transport could cost up to £1.6 million over a nine year period.
Officers noted this option might be ‘unpopular’ with parents and would still leave a deficit of places if predicted numbers were accurate.
Another option would be a temporary facility to open in 2014 as an expansion of an existing school until the new school is built.
Councillor Gareth Barnard, executive member for children and young people, said: “The planning of places has significantly improved.
“Choosing the right place for your child to go to school is very important and we do our very best to provide school places as close to home as possible.
“We meet demand as best we can.”
Although the details of how the council plans to increase school places are confidential, methods the council may use include ‘surge’ classrooms – an additional form of entry for one year only.
The council may also consider opening new primary schools and did so in September 2011 with Jennett’s Park CE Primary School in September 2011.