A SCHOOL where most pupils eat lunch in their classrooms because the dining hall is too small has been told it will have to wait for funding to expand facilities.

A petition signed by 4,000 people prompted a council debate on the problem at Thorpe Hall Primary School in Hale End Road, Walthamstow, last Thursday.

The school says it urgently needs £325,000 to build a new hall and kitchen facilities to cope with an extra form of entry last year and a further 60 pupils in the next two years.

Currently more than half of pupils eat lunch in their classrooms.

However, Cllr Marie Pye, the cabinet member for children, while admitting a number of primary schools are facing similar problems following a rapid expansion in school places, said Thorpe Hall does not qualify for a slice of a recent £30m cash injection.

The government funding has been earmarked for secondary schools which missed out on improved facilities when the Building Schools for the Future programme was scrapped.

Cllr Pye said Thorpe Hall will be placed on a waiting list for a portion of £3m set aside for school repairs.

She added: “There’s a long list, unfortunately. Five schools have no kitchen, and numerous schools with one hall or a hall miles away from the toilets. It also includes schools with cracked buildings and leaky roofs.”

But opposition councillors called on the council to act quickly to solve the problem.

Cllr Darshan Sunger, Conservative member for Hale End and Highams Park, said: “The children have to squeeze together like sardines in a tin. It’s not a pleasant experience.

“Garfield Road car park (in Chingford) was recently sold for £860,000, so we have money in the pot.” Others questioned why the money could not be secured from financial agreements with housing developers to improve infrastructure.

Pupils, Thorpe Hall headteacher Paulette Houghton, and Friends of Thorpe Hall chairman David Hoskins, presented the petition.

Mr Hoskins said: “We do find it quite shocking that in this day and age, with housing developments going up everywhere, we have schools like ours in buildings not fit for purpose.

“We look forward to summer and will hold the council to account.”