Councils vow to boost school places

By Beth Allcock on September 4, 2012 10:50 AM |

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Local authorities have pledged to expand schools and boost the number of pupil places at the start of the September term, in a bid to tackle rocketing populations in both Tower Hamlets and Newham.

Census figures pinpointed the two boroughs as the only areas in the country where population growth had exceeded 20 per cent, continuing an upward trend.

Two free schools are in their infancy in Tower Hamlets - Wapping High School and Canary Wharf College - set up, its governors stress, to try to address a lack of educational places.

And as youngsters again become accustomed to days filled with essays and timetables following on from their six-week summer, a spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Borough Council has stressed its commitment to a programe which ensures school places for all children who apply.

Within the borough, schools will need to accommodate a further 5,658 pupils than in 2001.

The spokesperson said: "In September 2012, new capacity is opening at two expanded primary schools, Culloden School, Dee Street, E14 and St Luke's School, Saunders Ness Road, E14.

"Further plans are in place and the council continues to plan for a programme of more places.

"A new and larger building is now being built at Bow Lock where Bow School will transfer in September 2014 and offer more places."

It added: "The council continues to make plans to ensure that there will be enough school places over the coming years taking account of the rising school age population.

"Additional school places can be provided by free schools which are approved for opening by the Secretary of State, not the council.

"The council recognises that proposers do have difficulties securing suitable accommodation in the local area and this may inhibit growth in this sector."

But Conservative Cllr Peter Golds has argued the educational issue can only be addressed with a complete re-examination of the infrastructure on the Isle of Dogs.

"This constant idea you can build and build on the Isle of Dogs and take money and spend it elsewhere in the borough is no longer acceptable," he said.

"If we are to look after the population we have got we need an examination of infrastructure to serve the population.

"The residential population is larger than many provincial towns."

He added: "I believe we need a mix of schools on the island.

"I think we could do with an academy that can challenge George Green's School, and I certainly think Tower Hamlets should provide at least another junior school.

"I believe there is a lot of opportunity for another free school and by doing that we will have a mix of education that will increase choice for parents and young people.

"Why are they so frightened of choice?"

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In addressing the issue of population growth, a Newham Council spokesperson said: "We are in the process of expanding a number of the borough's schools and also working alongside the Department for Education to open new schools to deal with the demand of a growing young population.

"We will have created the equivalent of 18 420-place primary schools between 2008 and 2015 to cope with demand.

"We will have enough school places for those starting this September and we will continue to do so for the immediate years to come."

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