Heads to­gether to solve school places short­fall

Warn­ing of ‘sig­nif­i­cant short­age’ in Hilling­don prompts ap­pli­ca­tion for free school

Harefield Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By Kather­ine Cle­men­tine kather­ine.cle­men­tine@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

HUN­DREDS of chil­dren in Hilling­don could be with­out a sec­ondary school place if a new school isn’t built by 2018.

So five sec­ondary schools have put their heads to­gether to try to over­come this ‘wor­ry­ing’ short­fall, and cre­ate a new free school in the north of the bor­ough.

Head­teach­ers from Ruis­lip High School, Hay­don School, North­wood School, Vyn­ers School and Queens­mead School have ap­plied to the De­part­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion to cre­ate a whole new school they hope will open in Septem­ber 2018.

The sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in school aged chil­dren in Hilling­don means that de­mand could soon out­weigh sup­ply, par­tic­u­larly in the north of the bor­ough.

Ac­cord­ing to coun­cil statis­tics pro­vided to schools in the area, by Septem­ber 2019 there could be 349 pupils in the north of the bor­ough with­out a sec­ondary school to go to – enough to fill an en­tire sec­ondary school year group.

Robert Jones, Hay­don School head­teacher, said: “There’s go­ing to be a sig­nif­i­cant short­age of school places pro­jected by Septem­ber 2018, par­tic­u­larly in the north of the bor­ough and the num­bers get very high in 2019.

“Some lo­cal schools have been asked to ex­pand to try to meet the short­fall but it looks like there’ll be rea­son to have at least one more new school, pos­si­bly more than that.

“So the five schools de­cided the best ap­proach would be a col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach for a com­pre­hen­sive school.”

The five head­teach­ers have set up Hilling­don Ed­u­ca­tion Trust to form a new school with 180 pupils per year plus a sixth form, called Hilling­don High School. It will ad­mit chil­dren of all faiths and none, giv­ing pri­or­ity to lo­cal chil­dren and their sib­lings from the sec­ond year of open­ing.

The Bishop Ram­sey Academy Trust has also put in a sim­i­lar bid to cre­ate a Bishop Ar­den Church of Eng­land School, which will build upon prin­ci­ples es­tab­lished at Bishop Ram­sey Church of Eng­land School in Ruis­lip, but will of­fer at least 50% of places to chil­dren of non-Chris­tian faiths or no faith.

Mr Jones con­tin­ued: “Our view is that a non-se­lec­tive school would bet­ter meet the needs of the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

“The idea be­ing that the new school would ap­point a new head­teacher and ini­tially some of the head­teach­ers would be on the gov­ern­ing body, but in time it would be like the ex­ist­ing schools.”

Free schools are non-prof­it­mak­ing, in­de­pen­dent schools, which are state funded. Sim­i­lar to academies, they are not con­trolled by a lo­cal au­thor­ity and are in­stead gov­erned by char­i­ta­ble trusts.

A de­ci­sion on the fu­ture of Hilling­don High School is likely to be made in Septem­ber, but Mr Jones thinks the dif­fi­culty will be find­ing a site to build the school on.

He said: “It could take quite a while to get to plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion stage, as we have to find a site – the lo­cal au­thor­ity have got some sites in mind but they have not yet dis­closed those to us.”

Par­ents, par­tic­u­larly those with chil­dren in Years 3 and 4, are be­ing urged to at­tend a pub­lic meet­ing on the ap­pli­ca­tion, to show their sup­port to the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter.

Mr Jones added: “For par­ents of stu­dents in Year 3 and 4, the fig­ures are quite wor­ry­ing.

“If noth­ing changes, there’s a chance your child won’t get a lo­cal school place, so part of the process that we have to go through is an in­for­ma­tion gath­er­ing process with par­ents.

“We’re cur­rently meet­ing with pri­mary school head­teach­ers and send­ing out com­mu­ni­ca­tion, with those schools, to par­ents.”

There will be an open meet­ing on Mon­day April 25 at Win­ston Churchill Hall, Ruis­lip, from 6.307.30pm to dis­cuss the pro­pos­als

n VI­SION: Martina Lecky, Robert Jones, Mark An­der­son, James Heale and Rhona John­ston want to cre­ate a new sec­ondary school in Hilling­don to ad­dress a pre­dicted short­fall in places

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