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'We can enforce that extra class'
AN extra class of children could be added to a Headington primary school even if parents and staff resist expansion, education chiefs have warned.
School organisation and planning officer Roy Leach told parents at a busy meeting at Windmill Primary School that the council could use emergency powers to put pupils without a school place into the school from next September.
The meeting was called after a large number of parents and members of staff expressed concerns about the proposed expansion of the school from two-form to three-form entry.
The plans would see the school’s numbers rise from 480 to 620 within five years.
Speaking at the meeting on Tuesday, headteacher Lynn Knapp said she had concerns that if the school refused to work with the council, it may find itself having to accommodate more pupils anyway, without extra facilities.
She said: “If we have five new classes, we need five new classrooms.”
She said she would resist any attempt to expand the school without providing more classrooms and facilities.
But Mr Leach admitted the council could force extra pupils on the school if it could not find places for them elsewhere when spaces are allocated in the new year.
He said: “For community and voluntary-aided schools, the council can place additional children in schools.
“We try to avoid it, but sometimes we have to use that power, as we did with St Andrew’s and with New Marston.”
If the council wants to add children to the roll, it has to make a “statutory notice” through its legal team.
Parents argued that the school was at capacity, with certain facilities such as the hall too small to cater for the entire school.
Alvira Khan-Gordon said: “Our school is the only one being asked to go from two-form to three-form entry.
“My husband was here helping out the other day and he saw a child who was being given extra reading help in a crowded corridor.
“There isn’t enough space.”
Another mum, who did not want to be named, said she worried about the effect more traffic would have on an already busy road network. She said: “It’s already at breaking point, and you want to introduce more people.
“It’s bad around here as it is, especially on rainy days. Rainy days are an accident waiting to happen.”
Cabinet member for education Melinda Tilley had to stand up at one point in the meeting to calm parents.
She said: “If you don’t want this to happen, you have to put that down in the consultation.
“Nothing has been decided – which is why we don’t have any plans to show you. If you’re going to put up a big fight, don’t attack the messengers.”
But dad Matthew Colling, who has a daughter at the school, said: “There is no back-up plan as far as we’ve been told, and we have been painted this picture of children having to travel for miles to go to school.
“We are struggling to see that this is a consultation.”
The extra spaces are being sought at more than a dozen primary schools across Oxford to accomodate extra pupils in the system because of a “population bulge”.