Merton Council to stave off 3,000 shortfall in primary places with £31m expansion
A £31m school expansion programme will stave off a massive predicted shortfall in primary school places, according to Merton Council.
According to figures compiled by the Local Government Association, by 2016 Merton would have been facing a shortfall in primary school places of 2,917, excluding 19 per cent of the primary age population.
The figures were based on the number of school places available in May 2012.
The council has since embarked on an expansion plan at seven primary schools including Hillcross, Merton Abbey, Pelham, Poplar, St Mary’s Roman Catholic, Cranmer and Singlegate primary, to create 1,680 new places.
Further places have been created at twelve primary schools with 21 extra forms gradually introduced since 2008 creating a further 2730 places.
The council said further expansions would take place if necessary.
This week one single mum has spoken of her disbelief at being refused a place at a primary school less than one mile from her home and offered a place at a school "two buses" away.
Natalie Williams, of Saxonbury Close in Phipps Bridge, wanted to send her daughter to nearby Haslemere Primary but was one of the 19 per cent of parents who did not receive their first choice primary place this year.
She said: "She was attending Haslemere Nursery and settled extremely well there.
"I applied in plenty of time to the primary school but was unsuccessful.
"I appealed the decision which was also unsuccessful.
"They based their decision on distance but we are literally five minute walk from the school."
Miss Williams was offered a place at a school in Pollards Hill but intends to keep her daughter on the waiting list until a place becomes available.
Demand for primary school places in Merton has increased by 40 per cent since 2006 mirroring a national trend which has seen councils struggle to keep up with demand. Despite some parents not getting their first choice 100 per cent of Merton children who applied were offered a place at a school in the borough with 81 per cent of parents were offered their first choice.
Martin Whelton, cabinet member for education, said: "Obviously there’s been huge growth in terms of the number of forms of entry to tackle a 39 per cent increased in the birth rate.
"As a council we have planned in advance but we are fully aware of the challenge facing us in years ahead.
"It’s why we are having further expansions next year.
"The authority has done a lot of forward planning on this matter because the trends show that there will be requirements for further forms."
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