Richmond Council's School Place Planning Update - February 2010

The Richmond Council will send this leaflet to all parents of school age parents tomorrow [PDF] outlining the current state of the issues around school places and the two options they are currently considering.

Option 1 Highlights

  • Orleans Infants remains an infant school but with four-form entry. Requires building of three classrooms with space reserved for two more.
  • St Stephans remains as is
  • St Marys Infants remains as a two form infant School
  • St Marys Junior moved the St Johns Hospital site and increased to three form entry
  • St Marys Junior site becomes a one-form entry primary school (Infant & Junior)

Two additional forms from the current one form expansion

SchoolInfantJunior
Orleans Infants40
St Stephans03
St Marys Infant20
St Marys Junior at St Johns03
St Marys site11
Total77

Option 2 Highlights

  • Same as Option 1, but St Mary Junior School doesn’t move, the St Johns Hospital site becomes a new one-form infant and two-form junior school.
SchoolInfantJunior
Orleans Infants40
St Stephans03
St Marys Infant20
St Marys Junior02
St Johns Hospital site12
Total77

“These proposals would, in due course, be subject to the publication of statutory proposals and full consultation, to which parents and other local residents would be invited to respond, before any final decisions would be taken”

Nick Whitfield, Directory of Children’s Services and Culture

25 February 2010 | Category » news

Comments

I’m concerned that the proposals, both of them, are ignoring the elephant in the corner. St. Margaret’s primary schools are already so desperately oversubscribed that the total number of Reception classes, seven, offered this year between Orleans Infant and St. Mary’s Infant schools - and clearly central to Options 1 and 2 for future years - is already insufficient. Reception children in north St. Margaret’s are this year being shipped elsewhere into spare spaces in schools across the borough, denied entry to their nearest, walking-distance schools for reasons of poor planning leading to lack of capacity. This was despite the bulge classes grudgingly put on in September 2009 in TW1 - albeit at the very last possible minute. (In fact, this was organized so ridiculously late students were forced to delay starting school until November, in the case of St. Mary’s). The demand for Reception places in 2010 and in following years in this part of the borough is, by every one of the council’s own admitted predictions, even higher than last year’s and ever-growing. How are we therefore to applaud an apparently costly solution that doesn’t increase Reception class capacity one jot in St. Margaret’s?

It is clearly important that those lucky children who are admitted to the Infant stage of local primary schools are carried forth into the Junior stage, and the current proposals will address this problem, at least in the short term. However, this spring there will be yet another train wreck we all saw coming. With no apparent solution from the Council on the horizon, an even bigger crop of school beginners will receive no offers of Reception school places in the area. The stress to families excluded from local schools at the start of their children’s education, the loss of inclusion in their local community, implications for working parents on top of obvious implications to children’s fitness and to the environment of their long, unwalkable commutes to school, should be reasons aplenty for a much bigger re-think of this problem.

Dr Heather Bryan at 26 February 2010 12:16 AM

I sympathise very much with Heather, but at least our Council are attempting find solutions involving a new site, which previous regimes resolutely refused to do, even when solutions were up for grabs in North St Margaret’s. I give them two cheers for this and look forward to seeing whether the new St John’s site really can provide enough space (including green space) for a three form entry.
On a separate matter, Mr Whitfield’s letter has two references in his first two paragraphs to parents moving across from the Independent sector, citing the economic recession. Does anyone know precisely on what evidence this is based? Though it seems perhaps plausible on first reading, I wonder if politicians are choosing to use it as a cloak for the inaction in the face of demographic near- certainties over the last ten years.

Ben Driver at 26 February 2010 9:00 AM

Ben:

Up for grabs?

This is an exaggeration for dramatic effect which misrepresents what happened. The Brunel site was for sale, and was sold, as a single lot. The vendor would not have willingly sold part of it to create a new school, which would be seen as a noisy and unwelcome neighbour to most prospective purchasers of high class luxury houses. The Education Authority had no wish to buy as it was determined not to build a school that would attract out of borough pupils.

Moving across:

We discussed this 3 years ago as variations in ‘take-up rate’ = ‘total demand for Reception/live births 4 years previously’. It’s only actually a ‘moving across’ if the children start at a private infants school.
Not much is publicly known about either but there is no doubt that it can be much more of a problem in this area than it is in the less affluent parts of the borough. This comes from a post to this site by me in May 2007:

‘The local [Area 1 = St Margaret’s & N Twickenham and Riverside wards] birth rate is only increasing very slowly (1997-2005: 0.1% p.a.) according to the Local Authority’s (LA’s) ‘Estimate of potential demand for reception places’ . . What has changed [in Area 1 = St Margaret’s & N Twickenham and Riverside wards] . . is the ‘take-up rate’ = ‘total demand/live births 4 years previously’. This has always been low, in the range 40%-46% since 1993, in contrast to Heathfield/Whitton, where it averages 94%. [It has increased from] from 45% in 04/05 and 05/06 to 59% in 06/07 . . ‘

The borough average take-up rate at that time was said to be 86 %.

Christopher Squire at 26 February 2010 6:58 PM

Chris
I am not a politician but guess that you must be. I make no apology for the language I used. If you had experienced, as I and many other voters in this fine neighbourhood have over the last ten years, the effects of the short term thinking regarding schooling for our Primary aged children, you too would be reaching for dramatic effect I am sure. An opportunity was missed by Geoffrey Samuels and others regarding the Brunel site and everyone around here knows it. The elephant to which Heather refers has been hanging around St Margaret’s for quite some time!
Back to now: my main point was that at last someone seems to be doing something longer term about all this (without simply squeezing more kids into successful schools at the last minute) and this is to be welcomed if it means fewer children not knowing where they will be going to school or, worse, starting at one place miles away and then moving in their first term or year to another.
I am interested in your explanation of the stats and wonder, if the take-up rate figures are so unstable, why have they been relied on so heavily in the past. And my initial query remains: it seems a big jump to assert quite so confidently that the changes in the figures are due to the recession.

Ben at 26 February 2010 8:03 PM

HB: do you know how many N St Margaret’s reception children are ’ . . being shipped elsewhere into spare spaces in schools across the borough’?

Ben: I am not a candidate for public office but I am one the current [Lib Dem] councillors’ supporters, so I have no objection to your blaming Cllr Samuels [Tory] for the present problem. I prefer to concentrate on what the Council officers say and do. I’m sure they have had their eyes on the St John’s site for many a long year and now they’ve got it - excellent!

Buying the St John’s site enables the council to increase the permanent reception capacity in the area by 40 %, from 5 classes to 7, instead of by one only as first planned; if an 8th permanent class is needed [as HB asserts] the case for it will have to be made when Phase 2 of this expansion programme is being decided.

I don’t have any recent stats for the ‘take up rate’ so I cannot add to what I’ve written. I guess that it had remained stable for a long run of years since the last recession; when it started to rise the officers noticed but naturally hoped that it would stabilise or even revert to what it was before.

The only way to find out the reason for rise would be to survey samples of parents each year to find out: what their attitudes are to ‘going private’; or to using the close by Hounslow schools; and how they are changing. This could be done but it isn’t.

Christopher Squire at 8 March 2010 6:16 PM

Thank you Chris. Couldn’t help noticing a Times Online blog on this today called “School admissions: why demographics and not the recession may be to blame for shortages”.

http://timesonline.typepad.com/schoolgate/2010/03/school-admissions-why-demographics-and-not-the-recession-is-to-blame-for-shortages.html

Sarah Ebner concludes,

“So if your area does have a shortage of school places it is more likely to be a result of poor local planning for schools….than the previously-wealthy taking your child’s place”.

Hear, hear.

Ben at 12 March 2010 7:08 PM

Cllr Malcom Eady* writes: ‘FOLLOWING the recent significant increase in demand and capacity at our primary schools, we will in the medium term need to increase the number of places available in our secondary schools. We have eight secondary schools in the borough, of which six are now oversubscribed . . ‘

‘We have been very successful in improving their performance, and this, together with the effects of the recession, has meant that we have received more applications than would have been expected for places next September. I would expect their popularity to increase. With the existing spare capacity and the priority given to local children by our link school system, ALL our primary school pupils will be offered places for the next few years, but the problem starts in 2014 and increases significantly post 2018.

Our Academies programme gave us an early opportunity to build in some extra capacity, rather than wait for the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme. We have added extra places at the Hampton and Twickenham Academies and will do so at the proposed academy at Shene if it goes ahead. We will also be providing more places at Teddington School as a result of its rebuild. We announced last November that officers have once again been looking at the potential of a Catholic secondary school, but this requires some very detailed discussions with the diocesan boards of education, which I hope can have a positive outcome.

As with our primary school programme, the two main problems are lack of money and the lack of suitable locations for new schools. We have been investigating a number of options, but these have all been held on a confidential basis. We are also looking at expanding some of our other existing schools, but, with money for capital programmes being very tight, this highlights just how irresponsible the Conservative policy of using these scarce resources for unnecessary sixth forms would be. I can assure people that just as we have been successful in providing primary school places we will do the same for secondary.’

  • Cabinet Member with responsibility for Children’s Services and Education

Christopher Squire at 16 March 2010 12:01 PM

Does anyone know where the reception children are currently being shipped off to?

Ie which schools exactly?

It would be very useful to know what the fall back is should the current plans not provide enough schooling for the North St Margarets residents (as I strongly suspect it will not)

Glen Collins at 1 April 2010 2:41 PM

Does anyone know if this school expansion is still going to go ahead given the recently announced cancellation of many school building project by the new government?

angela at 8 July 2010 5:40 PM

The ‘Ric & Twic’ has the latest on this at:
http://www.richmondandtwickenhamtimes.co.uk/news/richmondnews/8265282.Academies_funding_under_threat/?ref=eb
’ . . £660,000 for primary school rebuilding has also been slashed, . . ‘

Christopher Squire at 10 July 2010 2:28 PM

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