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Primary-school places shortfall: what's happening where you live?

(217 Posts)
HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 15-Mar-13 10:16:39


It's headline news today that one in five primary schools are now full or near capacity.

And, with 240,000 new primary-school places needed for 2014, the National Audit Office is saying the Department of Education "faces a real challenge... there are indications of strain on school places".

We were wondering how you all feel about this? Do you have a child due to start primary school in September? Are you aware of a shortage of places in your area? What steps are your local council taking to make school places available to all those who need one?

Please do let us know.

ThePskettiIncident Fri 15-Mar-13 10:57:54

Rural area. Main primary school is oversubscribed by more than a class size and the village primaries are also becoming very full. Very difficult for travel to the villages, as local bus services have been cut severely. Also, there's a list of over 100 small primaries in the county threatened with closure as their size is not economically viable. For example, schools must have own broadband provider/supply but the cost is over £20k, so the school has to make a teacher redundant to pay for the Internet!

Situation is pretty dire and the vast majority of schools are church schools, so for atheist or non religious families there is no choice at all.

GreatGooglyMoogly Fri 15-Mar-13 11:10:03

We live near the centre of a small city. Both DC are at school already but when applying for DC1 we applied in order of location to our home (apart from religious schools) and didn't get any of our 3 choices as they all only took one class (30 children) per year and siblings took most of the places. It seems that 2003/4 was the first baby boom year locally and most of the primary schools have expanded as much as they can to accommodate the children, plus we have a new city centre free school (as the biggest problem was lack of places in the city centre). My big question is what about secondary schools? No one seems to have thought about expanding/ building new secondaries to accommodate the baby boom children who will start in September next year. Meanwhile a new housing estate has been built!

WorraLiberty Fri 15-Mar-13 11:15:13

Well I'm a governor at my local Primary - East London/Essex boarder and all the schools here are bursting at the brim.

What the council seem to be doing, is cramming more and more children into the schools we already have.

When my school was built (approx 90 years ago) it was designed to accommodate one class per year. It's bang in the middle of a residential area, so the whole playground is surrounded by the back gardens of the local houses.

Fast forward to now and there are 4 classes per year...and 5 classes in year 2 because the LA begged and pleaded with us to take an extra class load and put them in a portable classroom in the school's garden.The school now has around 940 children and is one of the largest Primaries in London.

What the Council fail to understand is that cramming so many children into a small school, affects their quality of life. The playgrounds are so packed that often they cannot run around. The gates had to be widened because parents and toddlers were literally being crushed as everyone tried to enter/leave the school together. Despite lunchtimes being staggered, the 2 tiny dining halls cannot accommodate everyone at lunchtime and children are having to eat packed lunches in classrooms/the playground...and don't even start me on all the traffic in the surrounding residential streets.

So what are they doing about it now that they can no longer shoehorn any more children in? They're wringing their hands about building new schools on the edges of the local parks. This idea was proposed around 3 years ago and as yet, not a single decision has been made.

Meanwhile, the demand for schools is increasing at an alarming rate due to the cheaper housing in this area.

fanoftheinvisibleman Fri 15-Mar-13 11:24:13

ds attends a suburban infants with a good reputation. The schools here are probably the only thing that adds £10k min on house prices compared to one locally.

Though people worry more about catchments at comp level. This is likely because primary now takes 3 classes per year group with 50% coming from out of area. There are a handful of places left but not many. We are in catchment area so it doesn't worry me. 90 children per year wouldn't suit every 5 year old though.

jowebs Fri 15-Mar-13 11:24:31

I live in a town on Teesside and there doesn't seem to be any problem getting in to primary schools here. Several children have left my son's class over the past year and have gone straight into other schools in the town. As far as I am aware there are no waiting lists.

tethersend Fri 15-Mar-13 11:34:51

I'm in tower hamlets, where the council have doubled the intake of one school by opening an annexe on another site and introduced catchment areas with nearest alternative school as a tie breaker.

DD is due to start in September, so it will be interesting to see how the cards fall with the new system.

williaminajetfighter Fri 15-Mar-13 11:35:57

Surely these stats must be incorrect. I would guess the figure would be 4 out of 5 schools not 1 out of 5.

Talk to any teacher about growing class size and talk to any parent about the challenges of trying to get into their local school (or see all the threads on mumsnet).

I truly think our government is drunk or swimming through treacle as, like so many things, they are aware but doing nothing about it.

Gigondas Fri 15-Mar-13 11:40:20

I live in Richmond - situation is very like that in Essex described below and now Feeding into the secondary school provision.they are adding bulge classes (2 were added after admissions this year) and consulting on extra places (250 per year shortfall this year ). consultation here

Tbh it's a mess and I think councils previous reliance on transfer to private sector is not sustainable as economic downturn and sheer number of kids means it can't be something can rely on now.

Skimty Fri 15-Mar-13 11:42:21

All the local authorities seem to be doing when they add a bulge classes is adding a classroom but not thinking about the additional stress on resources such as school halls, libraries, sports facilities. No more new houses should be built in an area unless there are properly resourced school places imo. Equally, if you are going to realistically take a bulge class every year then the head needs to bite the bullet and apply to properly expand the school. (Quick question: do Primary schools all have to be on one level or could you have two story buildings for upper primary freeing up space)

There needs to be a lot more joined up thinking. As it stands this year thanks to the change in admission criteria several people I know are likely to have children at two different schools which means that rather than walking they will drive in order to get to two places at once with knock on effects on traffic/parking issues.

Why we are throwing money at academies/ free schools when we need this kind of investment baffles me

lynniep Fri 15-Mar-13 11:45:30

Our primaries are generally oversubsribed (we have two in our small town) Fortunately we are lucky year before last (for DS1) as whilst we didnt get our first choice, we got our second as we are both in catchment and quite close to the school. Our catchment school is one-class-per-year.

It was massively oversubscribed however, but due to a co*k up by the LA, they had to admit extra pupils. (They mis-advertised a catchment road) This took them over the maximum numbers and they were forced to split his year only in to two year classes. So far this has worked out well, although it causes headaches every academic year wrt teaching staff.

Luckily, because of this turn of events, there were places for everyone. Many children were originally allocated the next school on the list #3 which is in the next town, and a sink school (level 4). This as you can imagine, outraged many parents, particularly with children already at #1 and #2.

Last year was not oversubscribed however. This year I have no idea.

notcitrus Fri 15-Mar-13 11:47:55

I live in Lambeth. Highest birth rate and immigration rates in the country I'm told, plus many of the people who would have moved out to the Home Counties haven't been able to.

To be fair to the council, they have added at least 20 extra classes and about 6 new schools in the last 5 years. But it's not enough. If ds had been 2 years older, there was a huge shortage of places in our area. Now, luckily, my 3 nearest schools have added an extra class permanently though one isn't confirmed.

But ask again in a few weeks once places are announced! It makes a mockery of school choice or preference as I've had to put down the nearest 6 that may take a child of non-religious parents. He will probably go to a CofE school which I wouldn't have chosen but is a good school and aims to reflect the community so only half the places are reserved for Christians.

It would make more sense if non-religious families were prioritised for non-religious schools so they had equal choices.

I'm just thankful to be applying this year rather than next when 200 new homes will be finished, nearer my nearest school than I am.

WorraLiberty Fri 15-Mar-13 11:51:45

Skimty they don't have to be on one level.

But in the case of our school, the foundations wouldn't allow building upwards...and then there's still the problem of playground/lunch hall over crowding.

Snowme Fri 15-Mar-13 11:59:09

How much does it cost to build one primary school?

I suspect a lot less than the £2 million some town councils spend each year on 'The Arts' facilities only a small minority of residents utilise. Like, commissioning a contemporary designed statue to plonk on a street that's ugly and meaningless but cost just shy of £900,000. They could buy a plot of land and build a school with that amount, surely.

There's plenty corn in the coffers for new schools we are unaware of.

Anyway, as someone with a daughter on the In Year Admission waiting list, I was briefly hopeful class sizes might be lifted..

nailak Fri 15-Mar-13 12:00:32

30 0ver flow classes in the borough, compared to an average of 8 in other boroughs,

I live near Worra, but I think she lives in the next borough. I had a friend living near her whose son wasnt offered a reception place, but some sort of group for kids who didnt have a school place a couple of times a week. She sent him out of the country to school in Kenya with her mum until a school place became available.

Our local infant and separate junior schools have both turned in to primaries with playgrounds on the roof.

My dds school has staggered break and lunch times.

I am also worried about the changes to funding of nursery places to 2 year olds in my borough which would mean 40% of children aged 2 are eligible for 15 hours, but where are the places? also the available places do not fit around older childrens timetables, as in the nurseries offer 5 hours 3 days a week instead of 3 hours 5 days a week.

WorraLiberty Fri 15-Mar-13 12:11:19

Yes nailak if I remember rightly, I'm in the next borough along.

<< Stands on roof and waves >> grin

RustyBear Fri 15-Mar-13 12:14:24

Snowme - it cost our school over £100,000 three years ago to add a classroom sized library to our primary school - that's just the shell added to an existing building, no land costs, no services to sort out, no equipment etc.

kissyfur Fri 15-Mar-13 12:23:57

How depressing, my DD1 is due to start school in 2014, the choice of schools near us isn't good, and now it seems they are going to be over crowded too! Hopeless government, when will they actually start helping the people?!

Oodsigma Fri 15-Mar-13 12:27:28

My town is ok but where I work there was real problems last year and catchments were getting smaller meaning people were passing a couple of schools to get to ones with places. Lots of these were from housing estates that were getting expanded too.

Bramshott Fri 15-Mar-13 12:31:51

Just for balance, we're in the home counties and the schools in and around our town are NOT generally full and people can move between schools easily. You might not always get your first choice of school (particularly if you're applying from out of catchment) but there will be a school place for you. Most of the classes at my DDs school are smaller than 30.

unebagpipe Fri 15-Mar-13 12:35:49

I live in a very suburban 'home-counties' town near gatwick within commuting distance of London. It is a baby breeding ground due to location.

Local councils insisting that schools have additional classrooms (read portacabins). I know a local governor who says that for next academic year not enough places for all reception children locally. Even the independents are over- subscribed!

The local authority has tried to find alternative sites but afaik level of public opposition waged against the proposed sites was excessive. People don't want the traffic and disruption near them.

Very very stressful. Think the education system is at melting point.

Fillyjonk75 Fri 15-Mar-13 12:41:15

Rural area. Parish cunts council are opposing the expansion of the school (needed to accomodate/improve facilities for existing children, not just due to the additional children) because the school is the font of all evil causing parking problems apparently (not the commuters using the free village car park all day instead of the station one, oh no).

BeCool Fri 15-Mar-13 12:48:38

West London - you have to live within 300 meters of DD's school to get in! It's small (one class per year) and has no room physically for expansion.

Most other schools in the area are much much bigger. I feel lucky to get her in there - but we need to move (need 2 bed flat) and I'm worried about changing schools as the one she has is so so lovely - much different to how the media portrays primary schools.

JaquelineHyde Fri 15-Mar-13 12:48:39

Large south east town here.

We moved here last August and none of our 3 children could get school places within the town.

Yr3 DD was out of school until November.
Yr2 DS was out of school until February (the week before half term) and
Yr1 DD was out of school until this week!!

They are now split between 2 schools and school runs are an utter nightmare.

We were offered a place for them all at a school in a different town that we had no way to get to and also happens to be a failing school that is in special measures.

The situation here is appaling and the county council are doing nothing about it!

spiderlight Fri 15-Mar-13 12:52:56

Our school has created an extra Reception/Y1 class this year because of an oversubscribed Reception year, moving six of the Y1 kids, three each into two R/Y1 classes. The parents of Y1 kids who have been moved are NOT happy and the children themselves don't seem to be getting the extra support and benefits that they were promised when this solution was sold to them and several have found the move very upsetting. The straight Y1 children now have a much smaller class but have also been put into a much smaller classroom, and they seem to have lost a TA for at least some of the week. The playground is absolutely packed.

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