Enforced expansion a 'worst case scenario'

Oxford Mail: Enforced expansion a 'worst case scenario' Enforced expansion a 'worst case scenario'

FORCED expansion of Windmill Primary School would be done in the “worst case scenario”, a top education chief has said.

Plans to add up to 140 more children to the Headington school have now taken a step forward and look set to go out for formal consultation.

Parents have voiced strong opposition to the expansion, and staff and governors have also expressed concerns.

Cabinet member for education Melinda Tilley said the council had another option if the school stood against expansion, but admitted it was not ideal.

She said: “There is a plan B, but it involves bussing and taxiing kids all over the place.

“We can enforce the expansion, but we wouldn’t want to, it would be a horrible thing to have to do.”

Earlier this year Mrs Tilley said schools “had a choice” when it came to expansion.

She said Windmill headteacher Lynn Knapp was “absolutely right” to demand that the school gets extra funding and buildings if it ends up getting bigger.

Mrs Tilley said: “She’s doing exactly what she should be doing for her school.

“Windmill is a unique case in that we have had a huge amount of opposition from parents, and we have to listen to them.”

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The cabinet, which will meet next Tuesday, has been advised to issue public “statutory notices” for Windmill and Five Acres Primary School, near Bicester, which means the plans for the two schools will go out to official consultation.

A report also advises the cabinet to approve plans to expand Botley Primary School and St Ebbe’s Primary School.

Mrs Tilley admitted the council was struggling to deal with “the massive problem” of providing sufficient school places to meet demand.

Alvira Khan-Gordon, who has a six-year-old at Windmill, warned the decision signalled that other schools could anticipate a similar fate, with parents and governors’ wishes overruled.

She said: “This is not just a Headington issue. There will be repercussions for schools across the county with any space to build on.

“Nearly 80 per cent of parents have been shown to oppose the expansion in principle. But it seems to be a done deal.”

She feared that the ongoing influx of pupils would put enormous pressure on a school that had only become “a success story” in recent times. Other parents have complained about overcrowding and an adverse impact on the school’s ethos and extracurricular activities. Neighbours warned of traffic and parking problems.

Ms Tilley said: “We have to find the places.

“We cannot simply say, ‘Sorry you cannot go to school.’ “We don’t have the money to build new schools. We have to expand where we can. But we are millions short in the basic need budget. “ She said the need for extra places had resulted largely because of high levels of migration.

Mrs Tilley said that people who wanted to live and work in Oxfordshire could not be blamed, but successive governments had left the council unprepared for the impact on schools and housing.

“The infrastructure is now creaking,” she said.

THE SCHOOLS

St Ebbe’s (CE) Primary School,Oxford:

  • The school’s capacity is to grow from the current figure of 315 to 420.
  • Admissions each year would rise from 45 to 60 on a permanent basis from September 2014.

Windmill Primary School, Headington:

  • The capacity is to grow from 510 to 630.
  • Admissions would increase  from 60 to 90.

Botley Primary School, Botley:

  • The capacity would rise from 300 to 420.
  • Admissions would rise from 45 to 60.

Five Acres Primary

  • School, Ambrosden, near Bicester:
  • The capacity would rise from 315 to 420
  • Admissions would rise from 45 to 60.

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