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Warning over primary school place shortfall
11:30am Wednesday 4th September 2013 in Education
MORE than half of communities in Southampton and Hampshire will have more primary age pupils than school places within two years.
Some city districts and towns will need more than 20 per cent extra school places by 2015, according to the Local Government Associa-tion (LGA). It forecasts there will be 1,096 more pupils living in central Southampton than available places. The east of the city will see 396 pupils without places. Overall the city will see an eight per cent shortfall in two years time, with that figure rising to 11 per cent by 2017 and 2018.
City council leader Cllr Simon Letts says there will be enough places available for the number of children. This follows a £1m investment signed off by the previous Tory administration, which includes the expansion of Moorlands Primary School in Bitterne and Banister and Wordsworth infant schools in Shirley.
He said: “We are reasonably confident there will be enough primary school places. And we get an annual grant from Government to deal with excess places.”
He said: “My main worry is whether it will be a desktop job by bureaucrats rather than engaging with parents and head teachers.”
In Hampshire a looming shortage is predicted in Romsey and North Baddes-ley, where the figures suggest there will be 197 more pupils than places by 2015. But the shortfall crisis is expected to hit Eastleigh worst, with a potential 426 pupils without a school place while Bishop’s Waltham is predicted to have 49 children without a place. Winchester will have a 196 shortfall.
County council executive member for education Cllr Peter Edgar said: “We are not anticipating a shortage of school places in the coming years across the county thanks to our extensive planning and our commitment to invest £165m in new schools and extensions over the next three years to provide 8,000 new school places.
“In the current academic year alone we have ensured more than 900 additional new school places have been made available.
Cllr Ray Finch, UKIP group leader on Hampshire County Council, blamed immigration and high birth rates among migrants for the pressure on school places. He said: “This is why we need to have proper immigration controls and a work permit system to ensure that our public services are not left buckling under the pressure of mass economic migration.”
Cllr David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Parents quite rightly expect their child to have access to a place in good school, that is nearby and in a good state of repair. “But councils are facing unprecedented pressures in tackling the desperate shortage of new school places.
“Without enough resource to provide places we are seeing some schools having to take extreme measures including converting non-classroom space and reducing playground space.”