Petition launched calling for new secondary school to 'give parents' choice'

A petition has been launched to call on Shropshire Council to build a new secondary school in Shrewsbury.

Liberal Democrat councillors say parents are being denied choice over the school their children attend
Liberal Democrat councillors say parents are being denied choice over the school their children attend

Liberal Democrat councillors say the high number of new housing developments in the town is pushing existing schools to capacity and reducing parental choice, despite claims by the authority that there are sufficient places to meet demand.

They are now asking residents who share their concerns to back a campaign for the council to provide a new school “as a top priority”.

Councillor Alex Wagner, who represents Bowbrook, has been leading his party’s campaign on schools in Shrewsbury.

He said: “Shrewsbury needs strong, future-proof planning to meet school place needs going forward.

“The council don’t want to hear it, but with waiting lists as long as they are, parents are being denied real choice on where their children go to school.”

Councillor Wagner raised the issue at a meeting last month, but was told there were sufficient places across the town’s four secondary schools to meet forecast pupil numbers until at least “the second half of this decade”.

This is because there are places available at Shrewsbury Academy and a new five-classroom teaching block is almost ready to open at Meole Brace.

Councillor Wagner said: “It isn’t good enough to simply point to the Academy which for many parents is miles away, and just not viable.

“Shrewsbury should be a town where children can get a great education offered at a variety of fantastic schools – not one where you get what you’re given.”

Councillor Wagner said there were several potential sites which could accommodate a new secondary school, including the possibility of expanding the new primary being built in Bowbrook into an all-through school, which the council has previously said could be a possibility.

He added: “Our petition is within the art of the possible – we want the council to take on comments about new developments and the strains they are causing, and to prioritise getting plans for a new secondary in place.

“This is not a tall order, it is what forward-thinking local authorities across the country are doing.

“Parents deserve choice, Shrewsbury deserves better, and we need a new secondary school to make that happen.”

Councillor Wagner has also submitted a question on the topic to the cabinet member for education, to be answered at a meeting of the full council on September 23.

It reads: “Shrewsbury has been subject to a period of, according to the council itself, ‘unprecedented’ development. Thousands of houses have been built in Shrewsbury, and in the council’s plan, thousands more are scheduled to be built over the next decade.

“Despite this, in recent years, Shrewsbury has actually seen a reduction in the number of secondary schools, most recently closing the Wakeman School and amalgamating Harlescott and Sundorne.

“In practical terms, this has marked a notable reduction in school choice for parents.

“In previous answers to questions on school place needs, the council have cited now-delayed projects to expand Meole, and the availability of spaces at the Academy, the latter of which is not on the right side of town for most parents.

“This, in the eyes of many residents, does not provide a real long-term solution to issues with school place choice, especially in light of the aforementioned development.

“Could I ask whether the portfolio holder agrees with prior statements that there is ‘no need’ for a new secondary school in Shrewsbury, and whether there is any willingness at all to try and bring plans forward this side of 2030?”

To sign the petition, go to form.typeform.com/to/dovQtC9M.

Shropshire Council has been approached for comment.

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