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Crisis over lack of school places could hit by 2015
THERE will be a shortfall of more than 1,000 primary school places across Oxfordshire within two years, according to new figures.
Demand will outstrip supply by September 2015, when an estimated 53,105 pupils will be competing for 52,096 places, the Local Government Association predicts.
That compares to 46,760 youngsters chasing primary places in September 2011, reaching an estimated peak of 54,208 by September 2016.
Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for children, education and families Melinda Tilley said the authority was doing what it could to head off the problem.
“The council is continuing to work hard alongside schools to ensure sufficient capacity in future years – especially in areas such as Oxford city, where pressure is most significant.
“A huge amount of work has taken place to increase capacity in Oxfordshire, with permanent expansions at many schools in recent years.
“In total 6,300 extra primary places have been created since 2008. There are now more than 500 additional reception places compared with three years ago, and more than 900 additional reception places compared with five years ago.”
The lack of primary school places in the county has been cause for concern for a number of years, due in part to the rising birth rate.
Oxfordshire’s population went from 607,277 to 653,800 from 2001 to 2011, census figures show, with under-fours up 15 per cent.
In 2010, almost 1,000 out of 7,736 children of primary school age did not get their first choice school.
Among the schools expanding is Headington’s Windmill Primary, which this month increases its annual intake from 60 to 90.
While it will get an expansion for three classrooms, it is lobbying council bosses for a bigger hall and internal changes.
Headteacher Lynn Knapp said: “We always knew the extension was going to happen, I am happy to do that as long as it is funded properly.
“My big concern is when that filters through to secondary.”
According to the LGA figures secondary demand is also rising, with an expected 94 per cent of places to be full by September 2018 compared to 83 per cent in 2011.
Headington’s St Joseph’s Catholic Primary is also growing, this month go from 45 to 60 new pupils with a new four-classroom building next year.
Headteacher Sue Tomkys said: “Parents very much want Catholic education for their children. To find they can’t is for some families extremely distressing.”
Among disappointed parents is Cowley’s Hailey Munt, who could not get son Charlie, five, into the three nearest schools last September.
This saw her make a 16-mile cycling round trip to Wheatley Primary School, although a place was found at St Francis Primary in February.
She said: “It was awkward, he had settled in his little school but I gave him the choice. It is a lot easier and closer.
“The figures don’t surprise me, there are so many kids, it is constantly going to go up.”
The latest figures come from the Government’s School Capacity Survey rank the county 67th out of 152 council areas for highest demand for primary places in September 2016.
LGA chairman David Simmonds said: “Councils are facing unprecedented pressures in tackling the desperate shortage of new school places.”
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