Bid to tackle primary school place shortage

The county council has promised extra space will be provided in primary schools to keep up with a huge increase in demand.

Council figures suggest the number of primary school pupils will reach almost 61,900 by 2014/15, more than 750 higher than the current number of school places in Northamptonshire.

Demand for primary school places will outstrip supply next year if no action is taken

Demand for primary school places will outstrip supply next year if no action is taken

The pledge comes after a warning from the Local Government Association that demand could outstrip capacity across vast swathes of the country in the next two years.

Cabinet members will be asked to approve plans for new schools across the county at a meeting next week.

They will also discuss the proposed new primary school on the Priors Hall development near Corby.

That school had been due to open in 2009 – but is finally set to open in 2015 after an agreement was reached with the developer.

The council hopes similar school-building plans across the county will address the looming shortfall.

The most recent figures show that 38 county schools were full or over capacity.

They also show there were 54,936 primary school pupils and 61,137 places available.

However, by 2014/15, the number of pupils is projected to be 61,892, rising to 63,602 the following year and 64,910 in 2016/17.

If the forecasts are accurate, it would mean the number of primary school pupils had risen by 15 per cent in just five years.

Figures also reveal the number of children in reception classes has increased by 15.5 per cent across the county between 2009 and 2013 – and in Corby it has risen by more than 25 per cent.

And unless thousands of school places are provided there could soon be a shortage of space for youngsters.

A county council programme launched three years ago planned to create 9,000 primary school places, and senior councillors have insisted their school-building programme will ensure capacity will rise to meet demand.

The report which will be presented to cabinet members says the council has had success in securing education infrastructure funding via agreements with developers, such as at Priors Hall.

The report highlights that plans to open new primary schools, including Corby Primary Academy and one in Goulsbra Road, Rushden, have also been approved recently.

It also states: “The county continues to experience an increase in the number of families with young children through a rising birth date and high levels of in-migration.

“In addition, new housing developments are getting underway and projections to 2018 indicate continuing high demand for primary places and new pressures in secondary schools.”

But it adds: “There is still a need for further capacity to meet projected demand through to 2018 and also to put back into the system sufficient working capacity to offer choice and diversity to parents.”

Cllr Catherine Boardman, Northamptonshire County Council’s cabinet member for children and education, said: “It is the county council’s statutory duty to provide school places for every child in Northamptonshire and we are committed to doing this, despite the many challenges we face.

“There has been a 10 per cent increase in primary pupil numbers since 2008 and a 3.6 per cent reduction in secondary numbers.

“The council’s capital programme is currently planning to add over 10,000 new primary places into the county by September 2015 from the capacity in 2010.”