October 26 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
More than 1,000 pupils will join each school yeargroup in Suffolk as a result of housing development in the county between now and 2018.
The figures, revealed in a report submitted to the Suffolk Schools Forum, indicate a surge in demand for school places in particular areas including Ipswich, Stowupland, Mildenhall and Lowestoft.
Suffolk County Council has allocated over £12 million to their Schools Growth Policy in the next two academic years, as pressure on the school infrastructure grows.
The report points to several approved housing developments which will contribute to “significant growth” including Cedars Park in Stowupland, Red Lodge in Mildenhall, Woods Meadow in Lowestoft, and Stoke Quay in Ipswich.
Longer term, the report said, developments which would boost demand for places were expected at Ipswich Northern Fringe, Adastral Park in Martlesham, Chilton Leys in Stowmarket, Moreton Hall in Bury, Brooke Peninsula in Lowestoft, and North-West Haverhill.
The recent growth in the birth rate in the East of England has resulted in increasing numbers of primary schools being oversubscribed particularly, as far as Suffolk is concerned, in Ipswich.
That trend now appears to be impacting secondary schools as well.
A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said they planned to focus on extending the existing schools provision to meet the demand, rather than investing in new schools. At the moment the system as a whole still has a surplus.
One of the areas that has seen a rapid rise in pupil numbers is Mildenhall, much of it driven by the development of housing in the Red Lodge area.
In 2011 Mildenhall College Academy had just 48 students from the Red Lodge area whereas today the figure is 133. According to Headteacher Susan Byles, “the projections are that there will be significantly more in the future”.
The growth in pupil numbers is sustainable for the moment, she said, but could create pressure in a few years.
“It’s something we do have to keep a close eye on,” said Ms Byles. “We have got capacity to take in those numbers that are projected over the next few years. We could take on another 50 in each year. We are also having increasing numbers coming to us from Brandon at the moment and we didn’t have that planned before.
“By having larger than expected numbers coming from Brandon and across the Red Lodge there’s a potential to stretch us capacity-wise in the future, but at least in the next two years we are fine.
“Obviously if our student numbers grow there’s more money however we have got to have capacity to deal with that because you can’t suddenly just increase your staffing.
“As a secondary school we have got to have the capacity across all the specialisms so it can put pressure on staffing. One of our promises at this school is that everybody will be taught by a specialist teacher.”
A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “Whilst there is likely to be growth in secondary schools in the period leading up to 2016 we have no immediate plans to provide additional school places as there is surplus capacity in the system.
“To prepare for any significant demand for additional primary school places, we are currently working with a number of schools to provide additional places in the areas of growth across the county.
“There are no specific plans to provide additional new schools in the next few years as a current solution is to extend existing provision. We will continue to have discussions and consultations with headteachers and governors of schools in areas where population growth has been identified in our forecasts.”