'Rising Pressure' On Primary School Places

Research by Local Government Association shows demand to rise dramatically

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According to the LGA study, which looked at school demand across 150 education authorities in England, the number of children in Wandsworth who are expected to need a reception class place could rise by 15 percentage points between now and the start of the 2016/17 academic year.

In numerical terms, demand could rise from its current level of 17,949 places to an estimated total of 20,481 over the next three years.

The LGA research was published today (Tuesday) and is based on figures contained in the Department for Education’s school capacity survey. The LGA estimates that two thirds of English councils will have a shortfall of primary school places in September 2016.

Wandsworth Council has already taken a range of steps to provide additional classroom places for four and five-year-olds. Over the past three years the town hall has added 25 extra reception classes in schools across the borough to meet this growing demand.

New classes are opening this week for the start of the 2013 academic year, including those at the borough’s three new free schools – the new Tooting primary school in Franciscan Road, sponsored by Graveney School, Rutherford House primary school which is opening in the former Balham Youth Court building, and a new one form entry school at the Mosaic Jewish primary school, which will admit half of its pupils on non-religious grounds.

Extra reception classes could also be provided at Hillbrook, Allfarthing, Sheringdale, Albemarle and Granard primaries next September. An additional class could also be provided at Allfarthing at the start of the 2015 school year.

The council has also drawn up proposals for two brand new primary schools - which could each accommodate up to 420 pupils. These are proposed for the vacant and derelict Putney Hospital site (pictured right) and on land currently occupied by the soon-to-be-vacant Atheldene Centre in Earlsfield.

Wandsworth’s education spokesman Cllr Kathy Tracey said:
“These figures from the LGA very clearly demonstrate the pressure that is building on school places. Over the next three years something like an additional 2,500 reception places could be needed in this borough if we are to offer places to all the children that need them.

She continued:
“We have already expanded some of our best performing and most popular schools and we will be working hard in the coming months to ensure we have sufficient classroom places to meet this rising demand.”

The growth in demand for primary places in Wandsworth is partly due to an increased birth rate, but other important factors include the sustained improvements in teaching and learning at local schools and also the economic downturn.

School standards watchdog Ofsted currently rates 92 per cent of Wandsworth schools as good or outstanding. In comparison only an average of 74 per cent of schools in other parts of the country, and 80 per cent in London, have been given the same quality rating by Ofsted inspectors.

In 2012 Wandsworth’s primary schools achieved the fourth best combined Key Stage 2 English and mathematics results across England and Wales. On average, more than ninety per cent of children progress by at least two levels in English between Key Stages 1 and 2. Wandsworth is now ranked second in the country, behind only the City of London, for pupils’ progress in this vital subject.

This firmly established reputation for academic excellence, combined with the squeeze on household incomes, has led to Wandsworth’s schools becoming more popular with parents who may have once considered private education but are now opting into the state system instead.

Between 2002 and 2011 the annual birth rate in the borough grew steadily, rising from 4,080 to 5,477.

September 6, 2013