No more room at primary schools

Hunsbury Park Primary school pupils at work in their classrooms.
Hunsbury Park Primary school pupils at work in their classrooms.

More places at primary schools are urgently needed to provide for Northamptonshire’s growing population, according to county council leader Jim Harker.

Pressure is increasing on schools due to a rising birth rate, inward migration and housing growth, and county reception class intake in 2011 was the highest since records began.

Cllr Harker said: “As we know, the county is growing by about 10,000 people a year, even in the recession.

“One of the problems as far as school places, and particularly primary school places, are concerned is that it’s open admission – parents can apply to any school they want.

“That makes it much more difficult and it’s always quite a challenge to plan where school places will be needed.”

Plans for extending Brambleside Primary School in Kettering and Gretton Primary School to provide places for more children will go before the council’s cabinet member for education Cllr Andrew Grant on Tuesday, January 17.

Cllr Harker added: “In places like Brambleside and Gretton you have popular schools and a growing population, so it’s urgent that we agree to extend both of them.

“There will be other schools with a surplus of places available but you can’t force parents to go to a specific school – they have a right to choose.”

Previous projections for growth were underestimated and by 2020 there will be 21 per cent more primary age children than in 2010.

But Cllr Harker said: “You have to look at the predictions available in order to plan ahead and do the best you can.

“In a new area you might build a brand new school big enough for the village, but the village is still being built.

“By the time it’s finished the school is full of people from outside the village – this happened in Mawsley and we had to agree to extend the school.

“In these areas you also can’t be sure whether people will buy the houses or what type of people will buy them – they may be families with children or older couples.

“The county does have a long-term strategy and I’m confident we will be OK. We won’t get it spot on because there are always unforeseen issues but I’ve no doubt we will be pretty well right.”

Funding for the extensions has been agreed.