Kent County Council trying to tackle shortage of primary school places

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Hundreds of pupils will be taught in mobile classrooms or school halls in the autumn term due to potential delays in building new primary provision.

It comes amid the crisis surrounding the lack of primary school places where more than 10,000 extra places will be needed in Kent over the next few years.

An emergency £5.4m programme is being implemented by Kent County Council to deliver additional provision at 18 schools across the county, through extensions and high-quality mobile classrooms.

But high demand for the September intake, combined with possible building delays, means some schools may have to use existing space, such as halls, until permanent provision is made.

Mobile classrooms – some of which will be kept permanently – will also be used.

Cabinet member for education at KCC Cllr Mike Whiting said the council would be expanding provision at schools rated good or outstanding by Ofsted.

“We are determined as a county council that everyone who needs a place in reception year in September, 2012, will get one and where possible parents shall have one of their three preferences,” he said.

“This will be by ensuring that relevant classrooms and adequate classroom space is available in September.

“They aren’t all temporary; some will be permanent and adaptations of existing buildings.”

Deputy cabinet member for education Cllr Gary Cooke stressed the county was “not going back to mobile city” and that provision would be good quality.

But leader of the Labour Group at KCC Cllr Leslie Christie said it was nonsense that a decision over September places was being made so late.

“That cannot be good planning,” he said.

“Something has led to this, whether it’s poor forecasting in the past or whether it’s unique numbers that appeared this year.”

He also stressed his concern over the impact additional provision could have on neighbouring schools which could end up with a surplus of places.

But director of education Patrick Leeson said it was important that good quality education was expanded.

Commenting on the late decision over provision he said: “This decision is not one we would normally be taking in July.

“In publishing our draft education commissioning plan we will have a more systematic approach to planning ahead and making enough provision for parents to have the school of their choice.

“We can be better at being systematic and planning ahead and our commissioning plan will help us to do that on a more regular basis, but there will always be last-minute decisions about some schools having to expand.”

Earlier this year, KCC admitted to needing thousands of additional primary school places and the need to expand schools.

Education chiefs were accused of failing to plan ahead.

In its draft commissioning plan for education, the authority vows to increase places as well as the percentage of parents securing their preferred schools.

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