WALTHAM FOREST: Crisis as 162 children without primary school place (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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WALTHAM FOREST: Crisis as 162 children without primary school place
A TOTAL of 162 children still do not have a place at primary school this year as the crisis over education provision intensifies.
A council decision to provide temporary classrooms and ask other schools to find more room in order to tackle the shortfall has been branded a “sticking plaster solution” by one governor.
A total of 3,760 primary school places are expected to be needed by 2012 and funding to provide these has not been secured.
But the current shortfall shows the crisis is immediate, prompting suggestions that the council is considering drastic action, such as teaching children in church halls and community centres.
Even Liberal Democrat councillors, who run the council in coalition with Labour, have called on the authority to “get a grip on the problem”.
Mobile classrooms, at a cost of £200,000 each, will be erected at George Tomlinson and Jenny Hammond schools, both in Leytonstone, and South Grove in Walthamstow.
This will result in a total of 25 primary schools in the borough teaching in temporary classrooms and officers are still visiting schools to see which ones have space for more.
Several other schools, including Winns in Walthamstow and Wellington in Chingford, have agreed to find room for extra pupils in existing buildings.
Pat Stannard, chair of governors at Woodside School, in Wood Street, Walthamstow, which has a waiting list for places, said: “Though a few schools are being expanded permanently, the majority of extra reception places are in temporary classrooms in existing schools.
“This is a sticking plaster solution to a serious problem that is continuing to grow.
"With the birth rate still rising, it is essential that the local authority seeks funding for either new primary schools or for more permanent school expansions.
"I also believe this issue should be discussed by the full council with all the factual information provided by officers for members.”
Cllr Liaquat Ali, the cabinet member for children, said: “Increasing demand for primary school places is an issue affecting authorities across the country and Waltham Forest is no different.
“Our schools are improving, our links to the Olympic Park are creating new jobs and business opportunities, and as a result more families want to live and educate their children here so the council must work hard to ensure every child has a place.”
A council spokesman pointed to the new £15m Queens Road school due to open in 2011 and £5.7m for building work at St Saviours School as evidence that the council was addressing the problem.
He added that the authority has used birth rate projections to put together a plan until 2014, but has not provided further details.
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