Build­ing for our chil­dren’s fu­tures

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FOCUS -

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.

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