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WALTHAM FOREST: Fears over 'education timebomb'
PARENTS, teachers and governors have had their worst fears confirmed – that the borough is in the grip of a primary school places crisis.
As many as 250 extra reception places are needed for Waltham Forest children starting school in September, but 3,760 school places are needed by 2012, which equates to 140 classrooms.
As a short-term solution, hundreds of the borough’s children are being taught in temporary classrooms, but parents and teachers are worried that this could become a permanent arrangement and education will suffer.
A new report published this week by London Councils described the situation as an “education time bomb”.
Pat Stannard, chairwoman of governors at Woodside School in Wood Street, said she was not surprised by the news as her school was turning local children away on a regular basis.
She said: “It is a time bomb. But the suggestion we are facing a crisis is wrong – we are already in a crisis.
“And we are facing a worse situation because numbers could grow and grow.”
The local authority blames a shortfall in capital funding from central Government to pay for primary school expansions, which is £18.6 million over the next three years.
Woodside School installed a temporary hut last year but the governors are pressing for more funding so it can build permanent facilities.
St Saviour’s Primary School in Verulam Road, Walthamstow, was earmarked for an expansion to take on 210 more pupils by 2012, including 60 by September, but has not yet received the promised cash from the council.
This sparked a protest and a petition signed by 270 parents was handed in to the town hall on Tuesday.
Mother-of-two Caroline Griffiths, who has one daughter at the school, said: “It is a huge problem and we are going to struggle.
"Even now we cannot have a full school assembly, we have had to drop school activities and children are eating packed lunches in classrooms because there is not enough space in the dining room.”
London Councils cites the main reason behind the shortfall as the large and unexpected growth in London’s birth rate, which in Waltham Forest has risen by 24 per cent since 2001-02.
The economic downturn has also exacerbated the problem because fewer parents are sending their children to private school.
But Waltham Forest Council’s cabinet member for children and young people, Chris Robbins, refuses to acknowledge there is a problem.
He said: “To make sure that children get the best possible education right from the start of their school careers, we are currently consulting with teachers and families across the borough on plans to extend and improve our primary schools.”
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