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MP accuses council of "incompetence" over school places

By Sophie Madden | Telford | Education | Published:

An MP has accused council leadership of "incompetence" over the future of secondary school places.

Mark Pritchard MP

Mark Pritchard, MP for The Wrekin, says Telford & Wrekin Council has made "a major and catastrophic" oversight on provision of places over the next five years.

It comes after concerns were raised that the borough does not have enough secondary school places to meet demand.

Mr Pritchard said: "This is a major and catastrophic oversight by the council's labour leadership. They cannot blame the government, they are the responsible local education authority.

"Hundreds of children could now be without secondary school places. It takes their incompetence to yet another level."

Mr Pritchard has echoed the concerns of Conservative Councillors who claim there will be a "crisis" in school places as soon as next September.

A high birth rate and increased building in Telford mean it will need an extra 2,000 school places by 2022.

Local authorities are required to have a statutory five per cent extra on the places it needs.

But local Conservative leader Andrew Eade says the council will be short of that by 2018, with particular problems in Newport and the north of the borough.

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But Telford & Wrekin Council has said 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.

It is also looking at projects north Telford, south Telford, Wellington, Hadley and Newport, the combined total of which is in excess of any shortfall identified within the school organisation plan.

Councillor Shirley Reynolds, Telford & Wrekin Council’s cabinet member for education and skills, said: “I am surprised by Mark’s intervention given the recent attack made on Shropshire Council on the same issue.

"Maybe he should meet with both councils so we can explain that the scare tactics of his Conservative group are unfounded and he should not engage in such ill-informed speculation.”

Sophie Madden

By Sophie Madden
@SMadden_Star

Senior reporter based out of the head office in Ketley covering the Telford area.

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