Secondaries face dealing with rise of thousands of pupils

Oxford Spires Academy headteacher Sue Croft

Oxford Spires Academy headteacher Sue Croft

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Education Reporter, also covering West Oxford. Call me on (01865) 425437

OXFORD’S secondary schools will soon have to take hundreds more pupils because of a rising population.

It comes as an MP warned that unless another secondary school is built in Oxford, children could face “overcrowding”. Countywide, Oxfordshire County Council has predicted a 12 per cent increase in the number of children needing school places from Year Seven upwards by 2018/19.

The council has already had to increase primary school provision, including expanding Headington’s Windmill Primary to take in 90 pupils a year, to cope with a growing population. Secondary school pupil numbers are expected to hit more than 40,000 by 2018/19, compared to the 35,910 this year.

And it has said all secondary schools in Oxford could be expected to increase their intakes to cope with the projected rise in pupils in the city from 4,811 in 2014/15 to 5,628 in 2018/19.

It warned provision would be “eroded” as primary school children reached secondary age.

Current secondary school capacity for the county is 39,513 but the council is planning for an extra 150 places at Eynsham’s Bartholomew School and 150 at Cheney School, and said it has ongoing discussions with other secondary schools.

County councillor Roz Smith has warned problems could occur over the next few years as the growing number of primary school children move up to secondary.

A report by Oxfordshire County Council said: “Following the increase in primary rolls since 2008, demand for secondary school places in the city started to rise in 2014, and all currently spare places will be eroded as the higher numbers continue to feed through.

“Over the coming years it is expected that most, if not all, of the city’s secondary schools will increase their intakes. There is not considered to be a need for a new secondary school within the city.”

Cllr Smith, Liberal Democrat representative for Headington, said: “Both Cheney School and The Cherwell School are academies and that means they can choose their catchment areas and the council has little influence at all on what the academies do.

“I do think there needs to be another secondary school in Oxford city to combat the numbers. We have already seen the pressure on the primary schools and there was a knee-jerk reaction to that. We are going to have the same thing in three years’ time in the secondary schools and that is absolutely ridiculous.”

Academies are responsible for setting admission numbers, and therefore capacity, in agreement with the Secretary of State.

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said: “As far as Oxford is concerned, it’s crucial for children and parents that the problems we have had with insufficient primary places in recent years are not repeated as the children move to secondary school.

“While there is still some spare capacity in the city’s secondary schools, this will get used up as the numbers coming through increase.

“The county council may well be right that the city does not presently need another secondary school, but there needs to be the closest consultation and joint planning with the existing secondary schools to ensure that demand can be met without overcrowding or recourse to temporary buildings, and that children and their parents keep reasonable choice over which school they go to.”

The county council’s member for education Melinda Tilley said the council’s main focus was areas of greatest pressure and population growth, such as Oxford.

Oxford Mail:

County council member for education Melinda Tilley

She said: “Like most parts of the country, future growth in demand for school places is being anticipated in Oxfordshire and the county council is continuing to work hard alongside schools to ensure we continue to have sufficient capacity in future.”

She added that about 90 per cent of children starting either primary or secondary school this academic year were offered a place at their first-choice school.

Headteacher of East Oxford secondary Oxford Spires Academy Sue Croft said: “We are aware of the expected bulge and have been for the last two years.

“I am sure every individual school has been planning for how this is going to affect them.

“We are in an interesting situation in that we are not quite full and we have plenty of room for more children here. Having more children coming to us would be helpful, not problematic.”

Three more secondary schools in Bicester, Grove and Didcot depend on housing being built – where money to build schools comes via developer contributions.

A new secondary is planned for Didcot in 2017, as part of the Great Western Park housing development, as well as University Technical College (UTC) in 2015 to be run by Activate Learning, both providing 1,800 places. A 600-place secondary in Bicester is also planned.

Both Bicester and Banbury will be getting Studio Schools – small, specialist schools offering vocational training – which take 300.

Meanwhile, 23 primary schools are in the pipeline for the county, to cope with an expected 14 per cent rise in pupil numbers in the same time frame.

The Pupil Place Plan will be presented to councillors on Monday.

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Comments (1)

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7:18am Sun 13 Jul 14

Christine Hovis says...

Another complacent statement from Mrs Tilley. She must get on with planning for expansion now. The academies can and should decline to take an extra student until they get real investment - Cheney, for example, is already a very big school, and needs better facilities.

Mrs Tilley's record on expansion at Windmill is a dreadful precedent, two years of pretence that 'bulge' classes were all that was needed, followed by a sham consultation, followed by woeful inactivity. A fourth extra class will arrive at the school in two months time and builders are not yet on site to do the first stage of internal works. The expansion is the minimum that the County can get away with - is that the basis for education in this city? Windmill gets 210 new pupils: their hall expands by 45m2.
Another complacent statement from Mrs Tilley. She must get on with planning for expansion now. The academies can and should decline to take an extra student until they get real investment - Cheney, for example, is already a very big school, and needs better facilities. Mrs Tilley's record on expansion at Windmill is a dreadful precedent, two years of pretence that 'bulge' classes were all that was needed, followed by a sham consultation, followed by woeful inactivity. A fourth extra class will arrive at the school in two months time and builders are not yet on site to do the first stage of internal works. The expansion is the minimum that the County can get away with - is that the basis for education in this city? Windmill gets 210 new pupils: their hall expands by 45m2. Christine Hovis
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