AN EXTRA 500 applications for primary school places for September this year were made to Oxfordshire County Council compared with a year ago.

Dozens of schools have been taking on extra pupils under informal, temporary arrangements for several years, and a number in and around the city have now made a permanent change to a two-form entry system to handle the demand.

These include New Marston, Cutteslowe, St Ebbe’s, Botley, Cutteslowe, Orchard Meadow (in Blackbird Leys), Eynsham and St Edburg’s (Bicester).

The council’s cabinet member for education, Melinda Tilley, said: “One of the best ways is to extend current schools, because that is where the catchment areas are.

“If we don’t do that, we’re in danger of transporting children all over the place.”

She said the council had been aware of the extra young children in the county’s population and planned at least 10 years ahead.

She said: “We have a basic needs budget specifically for these admissions and even with academies we can still use that programme if academies need to expand.”

Mrs Tilley said expansions were always carried out in conjunction with each school’s senior leadership team.

She added: “We don’t start taking away school halls and turning them into classrooms.

“You have got to make sure the facilities are there and make sure we add to a school, not take away.”

The council was able to offer a place to each of the 7,724 Oxfordshire children whose parents applied this year – but 473 of them did not receive a spot at any of their top three choices of school.