‘No crisis’ over Telford school numbers
A council has defended its plans for the future after opposition councillors said it was headed for a “crisis” on secondary school places.
Telford & Wrekin Council said all of its new-build secondary schools can meet the demands of the next few years – and that it is already looking at future projects in parts of the borough that may see difficulties in the coming years.
Telford’s Conservative leader, Councillor Andrew Eade, has claimed that papers from Telford & Wrekin Council show it will be short of its number of school places as soon as September next year. But council officers insist they are ready to deal with the demandthe next few years.
The growing number of new-build homes and a high birth rate from 2001 to 2011 are creating increasing pressure on the need for secondary school places in the borough, according to the Conservatives.
Councillor Eade, ward member for Church Aston and Lilleshall, said: “We are heading for a crisis in secondary education.
“It is plain here that there is a serious shortfall in secondary school places.”
The School Organisation Plan for 2017 to 2022, produced by the council, says it will see an increase of more than 2,000 pupils by 2022. The report says: “This is a result of larger primary numbers filtering through to secondary schools. This, coupled with housing projections, is showing a potential shortfall of places by 2018/19.
“Whilst we currently have sufficient capacity at secondary level, it may be necessary to explore the possibility of free school places in the future to help relieve pressure created by a buoyant birth rate and large areas of new housing development.”
All councils have a statutory requirement to provide a five per cent excess in secondary school places each year.
There are also particular pressures for the borough in the special educational needs sector, with the number of places needed set to increase.
The report says: “At present special schools within the borough are largely full with very few surplus places available.”
The council says as part of its work in the Building Schools for the Future programme, it has “contingency plans” in place. All schools built under the £200 million BSF programme, which ended this year, can be expanded by up to 150 places should the need arise.
Under the programme, the council has built eight new schools and finished six refurbishment schemes.
Councillor Shirley Reynolds, Telford & Wrekin council’s cabinet member for education and skills, said: “As part of our well-developed process of planning for school places in the future, the council has ongoing contingency plans which are designed to increase capacity across the borough as demand either from increased housing or population shifts take place.
“In planning for new schools as part of our Building Schools for the Future programme, we worked closely with planners and the design teams to ensure that all our secondary schools have the capacity to be expanded as the need arises.
“Similarly the school organisation team works closely with primary schools to identify which sites are most suitable for classroom extensions to be provided.
“At the current time, there are a number of projects under consideration in north Telford, south Telford, Wellington, Hadley and Newport.
“The combined total of these places is in excess of any shortfall identified within our school organisation plan.
“As always, the council is keen to work with all partners including the Education Skills Funding Agency to identify future population trends and ensure that we are able to provide high quality education to meet the needs of all our learners.”
In papers released ahead of Telford & Wrekin’s full council meeting tonight, Councillor Stephen Burrell was calling for an “urgent and detailed report as to how new secondary school provision will now be funded”.
It was being discussed at the meeting at Oakengates Theatre.