Building for our children’s futures
know how we deal with free schools.
“The good news is that we did not need the secondary places, it’s primary we have needed to increase.
“The free school has actually led to a surplus in secondary places so in reality it doesn’t matter if children go there.” School Governor, Cllr Mark Shaw
Chesham councillor Mark Shaw, has been a governor for Newtown School, which was given funding via the county council to build an extension to take on an extra form.
The Chilterns has a particular problem with catering for the ever increasing number of children needing places.
Chiltern District Council’s development plan identified Little Chalfont, Chesham, Amersham and Chalfont St Peter as the areas with the most need.
Projections for Mr Shaw’s area, Chesham, expect a five per cent shortfall by 2016/17 in the number of primary places.
The main two reasons are a population boom and new developments.
Mr Shaw said: “The birth rate has risen quite quickly in the county, but also across the country.
“There are an extra 30 places in Newtown, and with Bucks County Council funding they have been able to make a huge development for them.
“The level of intake increase was about 15 to 30 at Waterside and then that impacts the feeder school Brushwood eventually as they go up through the school.
“There’s normally 60 a year at Newtown and this year there was 90. “That’s a huge step up. “It cost a lot to take on a whole new form.”
He warned the growing birthrate and new developments such as the Amersham and Wycombe site, Hivings Hill and Asheridge Road will compound the issue.
He added: “What we are looking at now is the development of existing schools, but what is even more important is when these developments are built in the upcoming years.”
Mr Shaw said it can be more complicated than parents first think, with people pushing for good schools to just take on more pupils.
“Elmtree School is a fantastic school,” he said. “But you look at it and wonder if the site could cope with an increase.”
He added governors, councillors and the county are aware that the time will come when new schools are needed.
“That’s the whole challenge,” he said. “It’s good to talk about new schools, but where are they going to go?
“We also don’t want to overdevelop. We were at a point six to seven years ago where we were talking about closing schools in Chesham, which just shows how things change.
“We don’t want to act hastily, create places and then struggle to fill them. We get funding per head, and having nine extra pupils in one classroom is not viable.
“You don’t want to act then realise the increase of children is just a blip.” Annette Pryce, Buckinghamshire County Secretary for The National Union of Teachers, explains why the gap in school places cannot be plugged by free schools
The NUT endorses the Local seriously undersubscribed. Government Association’s call for the A third of free schools that have been Government to fully-fund the cost of all inspected by Ofsted have been judged as school places, now and in the future, inadequate or requiring improvement and to give councils the powers to open and 13 per cent of the teaching staff in new schools so they can be delivered free schools are unqualified teachers according to local need. compared with 3.8 per cent of all
Whilst councils up and down the teachers in state-funded schools, and country are struggling to provide there appears to be little or no oversight sufficient school places, in particular of the managers and governors who run primary school places, and parents are them. worrying about whether their child will As class sizes increase so does the receive the offer of a place in a local stress on the teachers to meet the state school on national offer day, the growing needs of their classes, in a high Government is continuing to squander accountability low trust system that we millions of pounds on free schools. currently work in, this makes the task
They are serving small numbers of even harder. pupils and are often in places where This doesn’t allow for students to get there is no need for additional provision. the attention they need, and can have a
Since 2011, the Government has knock on effect on turnover in staff. spent over £165 million of taxpayers’ The Government needs to accept and money on the construction and admit that its disastrous free schools acquisition capital costs of just 44 of policy has failed and redirect the public the 251 open free schools and, money it has committed to these schools according to the National Audit Office, to local authorities to open schools in had committed the extraordinary sum places where demand shows they are of £743 million in capital costs alone up needed and where proper democratic to 2014. oversight of their management can be
Despite this, many free schools are assured.