Schools go to “extraordinary lengths” to cope with “900,000 extra children” across UK in next decade

Schools struggle to cope with overcrowding. Pic: Kristen Swanson.

Schools struggle to cope with overcrowding. Pic: Kristen Swanson.

Schools across Croydon, Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Lewisham are struggling to cope with increasing demand for places, as the number of pupils in education continues to rise.

Croydon is one area under particular strain with the local authority going to “extraordinary lengths to create places”, according to cabinet member for children, learning and families, Alisa Flemming.

The Local Government Association predicts that, within the next decade, 900,000 extra children will be attending primary and secondary schools throughout England.

Concerns have been growing as education centres across the country lack the space and funds to accommodate these rising numbers.

Local authorities across London hope that additional government funding will help them to build more schools, make permanent or temporary extensions and convert current space to fit larger class sizes.

Councillors from Croydon will meet on January 19 in an attempt to combat the problem of overcrowding. They plan to expand eight primary schools across the borough to make space for 30 extra pupils per year group.

The brand new Oasis Academy Arena, which will provide approximately 900 more places, is also set to open in September.

If expansion proposals go ahead Chestnut Park, West Thornton Academy, Oasis Fairfield, Heathfield Academy Spices Yard, Heavers Farm Primary, Christ Church C of E and Chipstead Valley Primary will see transformations in September 2015.

The Gonville Academy in Thornton Heath is already under-going planned extensions.

Croydon’s efforts follow the approval of The Citizen School in Lewisham, a free school that has drawn some controversy from local residents and is due to open in September 2016.

It also comes after Tower Hamlets’ “Building Schools of the Future Programme” , which launched in 2009 and has injected more than £230m into “the biggest ever school improvement programme in the borough”.

The BSF programme has seen a complete rebuild of Bow School in order to cater for an additional four forms per year.

Hackney New School also opened in September 2013: a free school creating places for around 700 secondary education pupils.

Councillor Alisa Flemming said Croydon are “planning ahead so our booming borough has enough school places for every primary and secondary pupil”.

This drive for change is in relation to the LGA’s “Investing in our nation’s future” campaign, which seeks to devolve power to local areas within the first 100 days after the General Election in May.

The initiative hopes to guarantee that all children can attend a “good quality school”, whilst providing solutions to other social problems such as housing, employment, health and infrastructure.

More than £7.35 billion has already been spent on schooling in England, but a further £12 billion is necessary to create a successful education system with adequate space for pupils, according to the LGA.

Councillor David Simmons, chairman of the LGA Children and Young People’s Board, said they “fear a tipping point could soon emerge when councils and schools can no longer afford the massive costs for the creation of places”, adding that they “do not want any child without a place.”

He said: “Mums and dads rightly expect their children to be able to get a school place but the scale of the crisis is too much for the council taxpayer to pay alone”.

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