School place pressure in Peterborough laid bare in council report

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Pressure on secondary school places in Peterborough could reach “critical” levels by 2020 according to a new city council report.

The council is forecasting that in September 2020 it will fill up all but five of the available Year 7 spaces in Peterborough, before reaching a shortfall the following year.

This is despite planned or current expansions at several city schools.

Peterborough is the fourth fastest growing city in the country and has the fourth highest birth rate, according to the council, and the difficulties of keeping an adequate supply of school places are laid bare in the report, with long waiting lists in certain areas.

The council said: “The significant growth in primary school aged children in recent years is now placing pressure on the council’s secondary school system.

“Current forecasts suggest the pressure will be critical by 2020 and 2021, regardless of the present expansions at Ormiston Bushfield Academy, Nene Park Academy and Jack Hunt School and the proposed expansion of Ken Stimpson School from September 2019.”

To tackle the difficulties, City of Peterborough Academy may expand from 180 to 210 pupils as a consequence of it dropping its Sixth Form provision.

A feasibility study, which will now be considered, has also been completed to see if it is possible to expand Stanground Academy by another form of entry.

Three schools have also expressed interest in providing one-off bulge years in Year 7 in September 2020.

Bulge classes are an additional class to what the school normally takes.

Moreover, the new Paston Reserve secondary school, which is unlikely to open until September 2021, will provide 240 places per year.

As of last October there were 12,246 pupils attending Peterborough secondary schools with 1,379 spaces vacant.

However, the council is predicting that the number of Year 7 pupils is to rise from 2,628 at the start of the 2017/18 academic year to 3,239 in 2021/22, an increase of more than 600 pupils in four years.

Similar rises are predicted across other year groups, apart from Year 11 which is expected to increase by approximately 450 pupils over the same period.

Turning attention to primary schools, Peterborough had 824 primary school vacancies across all year groups last September.

The council said: “This indicates that sufficient capacity is available in reception year for children aged four for the foreseeable future, but the situation needs to be monitored, and new places may be required in the future to meet local pressures and ensure the council can offer ‘local places for local children’.”

The report sets out the challenges to provide local school places in the following locations.

. Hampton - the report states: “There are no spare places in any year group in any of the three primary schools: Hampton College, Hampton Hargate and Hampton Vale.

“None of the school sites can be expanded.

“An illustration of the challenge is that in Reception Year there are 104 names on the schools’ three waiting lists. In Year 1 it is 73.

“A major implication is the cost of transport as a result of not being able to offer these children a place at their local Hampton school.”

. Woodston/Fletton - the report states: “Demand has grown as a result of housing developments at Hempsted, Buttercream Drive and Sugar Way.

“Woodston Primary School is due to be expanded with effect from September 2019 to a three form entry school to allow for the growth.

“The Nene Valley, Brewster Avenue and Old Fletton primary school sites are at their limit and not capable of expansion.”

. Stanground - the report states - “The continuing housing growth at the Cardea estate is placing in-year demand pressures on St Michael’s Primary School and Oakdale Primary School in particular.

“Southfields was expanded to a three form entry school in 2015, St Michael’s was expanded in 2016 to a two form entry school and Oakdale is due to be expanded to two form entry from September 2018.

“However, all three schools, as well as Heritage Park, have significant numbers on their waiting lists across all year groups.”

The report also states that further analysis is needed at Eye Church of England Primary School, Duke of Bedford Primary School in Thorney, and John Clare Primary School in Helpston, to assess whether they can be expanded.

Intriguingly, from January 2012 to January 2016 the in year demand for primary school places (these are applications received from parents who are new to the area or from parents who wish to apply for a different school in Peterborough) rose by just under 800.

Yet, from January 2016 to October 2017 it only rose by 31.

At secondary school level, there was a rise of 180 places between January 2012 to January 2016, but a fall of 84 places from January 2016 to October 2017.

The pressure on school places is not new, and after publishing a report in November 2016 which expressed similar concerns senior council officials expressed absolute confidence that every child would receive a place.

All this data has now been presented to members of the council’s Children and Education Scrutiny Committee.

Committee members were due to discuss the report at the Town Hall last Thursday, but the meeting has now been put back a fortnight.