Councillors employ 'joined up thinking' to tackle school place pinch points across Warwickshire

Councillors across districts and boroughs are working together to try to tackle the problem

(Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Joined up thinking between Warwickshire County Council and its district and boroughs has been praised as being key to highlighting pinch-points when it comes to school places.

Members of the county council’s cabinet endorsed at their meeting this week (December 7) a number of schemes aimed at trying to ensure there are enough pupil places.

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Cllr Jeff Morgan (Con, Bulkington and Whitestone), the portfolio holder for children, families and education, explained: “The local authority has a responsibility to make sure there are sufficient school places in an area - and that is important. Not in a particular school but over the planning area.

“This is a real challenge for us particularly at the moment because our population is increasing. We have a target to try and make sure there is at least four per cent capacity in any area but this is genuinely difficult.

We have certain pinch-points where we know we have insufficient capacity, in the north for instance where I am well aware of the primary school situation in Baddesley and Grendon and the secondary situation in Polesworth and Atherstone.

What we do in situations like that is have discussions with officers and the trust - at secondary school level virtually all of our schools are in trusts.

"One new development this year is that we organised five area meetings whereby local councillors could take to staff online and look at the numbers in their areas to triangulate information to come up with a strategy and I think that has certainly enabled our members to understand the process.”

Cllr Morgan said that there were 23,000 applications for school places processed each year of which 93 per cent get one of their first three choices, 79 per cent of secondary applicants got their first choice and 93 per cent of primary applicants.

He added: “On those figures we are not doing too badly but there are always problems.”

A report prepared ahead of the meeting highlighted where issues could arise over the coming years.

It explained: “Demand for school places is expected to continue to increase across many parts of the county, predominantly in line with housing growth. It is expected the significant pressures will be at secondary age level as larger primary cohorts move through to secondary school.”

Cllr Margaret Bell (Con, Hartshill and Mancetter) said: “Polesworth is one of the key housing development areas in the North Warwickshire Borough Council Plan with well over 2,000 houses, so it illustrates how important it is to work with the districts and boroughs on school places and to make sure the section 106 requests reflect the need for educational places.

“Thanks for your work on this and there is more to do.”