Merton school expansions slow down after 100 vacancies found
No further school expansions will take place next year, the council said after it discovered there were nearly 100 pupil vacancies across the borough this year.
Merton Council said demand for school places was “lower than expected” this year and has confirmed it will not expand any more schools in the run up to September – after 22 extra classes were added since 2010.
Last week, a controversial scheme to expand Dundonald primary school was approved by planning committee councillors, after the council argued there was a severe shortage for places in the Wimbledon area.
But at a meeting of the council’s children and young people scrutiny panel, also last week, councillors considered a report which said there are currently 98 primary school vacancies, which is 3.5 per cent of the total reception roll.
The report said: “The reduction can be attributed to the retention rate from birth to reception roll falling from 81.6 per cent in the previous year to 79.3 per cent.
“In view of the current year’s surplus, the need to control cost of the school expansion programme and, on the basis that primary schools, not unreasonably, wish to minimise vacancies, officers have agreed with the lead member and with primary headteachers that we will seek to avoid any additional expansions in reception year commencing September 2013.”
Councillors were also told four schools would be considered again for expansion in Wimbledon, where demand for schools places is greatest.
These schools are Hillcross, West Wimbledon, St Matthews Church of England, and Bishop Gilpin, whose expansion plans in 2011 were vetoed by the school’s governors after a deluge of complaints from parents and residents.
The total £53m school expansion programme started in 2011 and will end in 2016.
The cabinet member for education, Councillor Martin Whelton, said: “It would be wrong to announce any further expansions until we know the further resources we are going to receive from central Government.
“We have provided a place for every child in the borough and that’s something we’re proud of.”