Archive for January 2012

Winchester’s School Place Shortage

30 January 2012

As well as running my practice I part own Parklifekids and am a school governor so have a keen interest in Winchester and the wonderful schools we’re fortunate to have here.  These schools exist thanks to the hard work of staff, parents and governors.  I’ve been following with interest the creeping shortage of school places in the city so was concerned to find out that there is a 20% shortage of school places in the coming year.

I was aware of this through my work as school Governor but was shocked to find out that Hampshire Council have been working on plans to increase our school by 50%.  Although the largest primary school in Winchester our wonderful head still knows the name of every one of our 420 children.  Our school has been judged as good by Ofsted with some elements of outstanding despite us having only 80% of the internal area that guidance recommends.

Hampshire plan to increase our intake at very short notice by plonking some portacabins down.  No indication of where children will have their lunch, gather for assemblies or have music or PE lessons as our core facilities are already significantly under size.  This is happening across the city with a further 5 schools planned to take temporary accommodation.  Now, I’m not against expanding a school if the places are needed, but Hampshire must have been sleeping to have failed to notice a 20% need.  Since 2006, development in Winchester has created demand for an additional 237 primary school places and exceeds the number of additional places provided.

Hampshire say they don’t have the money but they were given an additional £7.85 million in November by Michael Gove and told “I urge local authorities to target resources at managing the shortfalls in pupils places wherever they are most needed, and taking into account of the views of parents.”

 While HCC have plans for temporary accommodation at a number of schools, these plans were well underway by the time of the announcement.  HCC have yet to announce any additional projects or begin talking to schools about improving core facilities.

Gove also said “The nature of this funding, (capital grant which is not ring fenced) the nature of the projects it will fund, (mainly small primary school projects) and the readiness of local authorities to get projects underway mean that this money will be spent efficiently. Further, I expect much of it to benefit small and medium-sized enterprises and to stimulate local economic activity across the country.” Clearly the funding was part of a wider strategy and not intended to sit in Local Authority bank accounts.

If Hampshire don’t have the money, why are they adding 105 places to schools with 30 spare spaces?  Why are they spending money on temporary accommodation that will need to be replaced with permanent classes?  Why are they spending fortunes on award winning school architecture?  According to this example, they spent £4.4 million providing a single form school.  They plan to extend our school by the same number of places for less than a tenth of the cost.

However, the greatest tragedy is that Hampshire has presided over this mess without carrying out any of the statutory consultation they’re obliged to undertake.  Southampton has a similar shortage of places and has carried out their consultations.  So have many boroughs in London.  Why not Hampshire?  And is this why they’ve been able to mis-spend their way into the current poverty of provision?

Perhaps the Council might have a think and get back to us, or are they too busy lounging around on their Eames chairs at their Corian topped tea stations?

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Pupils of Winchester (POW!)