More school places needed in Brentford

But no money to spend on a new school

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Among numerous items on the agenda of IBAC's monitoring committee was a presentation on education provision for the future. The Committee felt that there had been a lack of consultation on pupil place planning with local Councillors and therefore invited the Director of Children's Services, Judith Pettersen to discuss this.

There is an recognised need for 15 further forms of entry across the borough of Hounslow for secondary school with an aim to begin work in 2013 with places available in 2015. However the money for this is not in place yet, there is "no money to spend on a new school" according to Judith with Hounslow council having to bid for money from the Partnership for Schools as part of a long process, although a request for urgent funding has been made.

There would be an informal consultation with the public in Autumn and the Council Executive would decide whether to provide these extra forms in the shape of a new school, or expansion of existing schools, or a mixture of both. This will then come back to the public in 2010 as a formal consultation. Decisions also have to be taken as to what type of school (boys, girls, mixed) and where. There appears to be no means of 'earmarking' sites for potential schools (Alfa Laval, Commerce Rd, Lionel Rd Diamond site, Brent Lea were briefly suggested) so any currently vacant building sites may well have been built on by the time decisions have been taken, although the council are "actively looking at every available piece of land".

Judith acknowledged that the siting of a possible new secondary school was of particular interest to this area (Brentford and Isleworth) and that the committee is correct in feeling that the East of the borough is the obvious locus for a new school if the decision to build a new school is made - because both of the level of development in the area and the current balance in terms of single sex provision in the east of the borough. Brentford councillors asked several questions regarding the current availability of pupil places, emphasising the need for mixed school in Brentford. Councillor Cadbury pointed out that "2015 was too far away and that an interim solution was required".Councillor Harmer suggested that the statistics showing most parents to get their first or second choices were affected by parents putting down choices where they expected to gain places rather than their first school of choice. Councillor Dakers pointed out that the local population in Brentford is expected to double over the next 10 years.

Several parents were there to observe proceedings, being concerned about the lack of places in Brentford, especially for boys. While there is a general need for places across the borough, there is also a lack of places for boys in local community schools. Children without priority needs or siblings will gain a place on distance between school and home. According to Hounslow's figures for this coming September as well as the previous year, that means that boys in Brentford would struggle to gain a place at any mixed community school in the borough and girls not wanting a single sex school would have similar difficulties. One parent, David Beckett asked whether Brentford School for Girls could be converted to a mixed school which would not affect the total number of places but would dramatically change the poor provision of boys places in Brentford itself.

There is also a lack of primary school places, with Lionel Road school being expanded to two form entry, as have Smallberry Green and Isleworth Town, and additional bulge classes will be needed in Isleworth although not in Brentford (bulge classes being a one off extra form that rises through a school).

Judith explained that there has been a massive increase to the birth rate since 2000 with 34% increase in births since 2001. This increase has not levelled off and is one of the highest in the country. The fertility rate is also rising, from 60.2 in 2001 to 76.9 in 2006 (the fertility rate is calculated as the number of live births per 1000 women in 18-45 age group).

There are a number of other factors affecting numbers: international migration is decreasing, the recession is triggering changes, cross border numbers are not expected to change significantly (this is the number of pupils who cross the borough border in order to go to school). Hounslow is an exporter of primary school places, but an importer of secondary school places. As part of the pan London admissions system, it is possible to apply to schools in any borough in London.

 

July 30, 2009

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