Merton prepares for demand in primary school places

A borough wide school expansion proposal which aims to meet the increasing demand for primary school places in Merton will go before scrutiny this week and then for decision at council’s cabinet on 11 October 2010.

The proposal outlines a strategy for 300 additional places in 2011/12 and 2012/13 that focuses on expanding Merton’s top achieving and most popular schools, building on the borough’s high standards of education and enabling all children in the borough to reach their potential.

It is proposed that Gorringe Park, Liberty, Morden, Singlegate, St Mary’s, William Morris and two other primary schools to be confirmed will each have an additional form of entry added in 2011 and Dundonald in 2012 as part of the expansion programme. It is also proposed that provision for primary education will be made at South Wimbledon Youth and Community Centre, possibly through partnering with a neighbouring primary school.

Councillor Peter Walker, cabinet member for education said: “Following reports to Children and Young People Scrutiny Panel on 29 September and Cabinet on 11October, it is proposed that we consult with parents, ward councillors, head teachers and school governors about how we accommodate Merton’s record numbers of four year olds.

“In the period 2007/8 to 2013/14, we predict that we will see a rise of 30% in the number of young children entering our schools. Already this academic year we are nearly 14% up on 2007/08. We also have a duty by law to accommodate these children in classes of 30 children or less.

“Cabinet will be asked to consider three costed options to identify schools or sites that could provide the extra classes that we need and to agree to consult widely on a recommended package of proposals.

“Our overriding aim has been to ensure that this legally required growth in our schools is driven by three priorities:

1. Excellence in educational standards

2. Sustainability

3. Value for Money

“For these reasons we have included in the options, schools with excellent leadership so that we can build on schools with a proven track record.

“On the issue of sustainability, we have looked carefully at whether we should build a new school on land that we would need to purchase, or whether it is possible to develop school sites on land which we already own.

“Finally, we will need to be aware that the Coalition Government has indicated that it will cut education spending in the next four years. Accordingly we must look at value for money.

“The three options have been sent to the Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee of the council. They can be accessed in full by the public at http://www.merton.gov.uk/council/committee.htm?view=event&event_id=3207

“We are determined to involve the parents in any of the proposed schools. So a letter has gone to all parents, teachers and heads in the schools we are considering for expansion. Preliminary talks have already been conducted with the head teachers, and chairs of governors of these schools by council officers.

“The timetable is quite tight. We need to provide some accommodation by next autumn so we need to decide the best sites for expansion by early December 2010. This will ensure that parents with children wishing to enter our schools in September 2011 know what their choice is.

“We are also holding a half day conference for all heads and school governors in Merton in the Council Chamber on Saturday 16 October 2010.”

If approved at the 11 October cabinet meeting, the proposals will go out for public consultation to give schools and residents a chance to have their say on the proposed plans. Members will review results from the consultation at the 6 December cabinet meeting where a final decision on proposed plans will be made.

-ENDS-