This is where new schools are set to be built across Norfolk
- Credit: NPS Property Consultants
As the size of Norfolk grows, so too must the number of school places for its children. Bethany Whymark reports on a council vision for the future of schools.
Communities in Norfolk are set to receive £200m worth of new schools to cope with an explosion in the county's population size.
Norfolk County Council's schools' local growth and investment plan lays out a vision for 22 new primary schools, which are expected to cost around £8m each, and a new high school in Norwich which could cost up to £26m.
The proposed schools come in response to the building of tens of thousands of new homes over the coming years, which are expected to bring thousands more children into the county.
As well as planned development, the county is experiencing a demographic boom in the young population – partly caused by a surge in immigration from eastern Europe in the mid 2000s, which has caused an increase in the number of school places needed among the existing population.
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Four areas have been singled out in particular for multiple new schools, with many more expected to need another school or extensions to existing ones to accommodate the anticipated influx of youngsters.
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New homes planned – 5,000. New schools planned – three. Estimated cost – £24m
The town is set to see 5,000 new houses built over the next few years.
It is currently served by eight primary schools, offering a total of 360 places – and the number of spare places for the 2018/19 school year was much lower, at 50, than the previous year.
But the council said it doesn't expect pupil numbers to increase too dramatically until the new housing is built.
Working with land promoters Pigeon, the county council has secured sites for three new primary schools, each with 420 places and expected to cost around £8m each.
With planning permission secured in 2018 for the first 343 dwellings, the council is poised to start work on the first school with a potential completion date of 2021.
The authority also said it will monitor places at Thetford Academy, the town's only state-run secondary school.
New homes planned – 12,000-plus. New schools planned – eight. Estimated cost – £85m
Planned housing growth from Old Catton in the west to Rackheath in the east is expected to put pressure on school places. The council says pressure for reception places in schools peaked in 2016 and is unlikely to rise significantly until the new housing is completed.
Construction is underway on the new 420-place primary school at White House Farm, for which the Sapientia Education Trust was named as sponsor earlier this year.
Two new schools have also been approved for the Beeston Park development in Old Catton and Sprowston, while further sites have been secured on Salhouse Road and north of Smee Lane in Thorpe, as well as a project to double the size of Little Plumstead Primary.
The council said Rackheath could be more 'problematic' as the current school has little room to expand, but that the major growth expected safeguards two primary school sites.
The report also mentions also plans for a new high school or all-through school in the district to supplement its existing three secondary schools.
The county council says it is monitoring new homes growth closely with Broadland District Council and the Greater Norwich Growth Team.
New homes planned – 4,000. New schools planned – two. Estimated cost – £16m
Attleborough is set to see major growth. The council says some parents choose nearby village schools such as Great Ellingham and Old Buckenham over the town's two primary schools, with around 22pc of children in the town's catchment having a preference for a school outside catchment in September 2018.
This 'evident drift' to village schools plus the 630 places available at the new Rosecroft Primary School are expected to absorb children from the first phase of new housing when it commences, but two primary school sites have been allocated, to be delivered over the next five years.
There are also plans for a £1.4m project to expand Attleborough Academy.
CRINGLEFORD and HETHERSETT
New homes planned – 2,500-plus. New schools planned – two. Estimated cost – £28-31m
In Cringleford the council says ongoing housing projects have generated far more primary age children than anticipated, leading to continued over-subscription at its 420-place primary school.
Two developments are proposed and have outline planning permission, and a new school site has been secured with one of those developments for a new primary school of 420 to 630 places.
To alleviate pressure in the short term the option of modular accommodation has been discussed with the existing primary school.
In Hethersett, the latest in a run of large reception in-takes in September 2018 led to children being accommodated in a modular building. A plan is being developed to increase the capacity at Little Melton Primary for September 2019, and there are plans for Woodside Infant to move to new a building and expand into a primary. Hethersett Junior School will also expand on its existing site to become a primary.
Land has also been secured for an £8m expansion at Hethersett Academy, the area's secondary school.
The council said land has been secured for a new primary school, planned with housing development to the north of the village, but that plans to expand existing primary and secondary schools 'may need some creativity' to ensure they can meet future demand for places.
FURTHER SCHOOL EXPANSION
Alongside these areas of major expansion there are a number of towns which will see one new school built under the sufficiency plan.
In Wymondham a new primary school, estimated to cost £8m, is being designed for Silfield, while the council has noted options for growth at Wymondham High Academy and Wymondham College, including a£4.5m renovation project at the former school for which plans have been submitted.
In West Winch and North Runcton 1,600 new homes are expected to be built before 2026, with a further 2,400 after 2026. The council says West Winch Primary is already at capacity, so expansion of the school is planned in the medium to long term at an estimated cost of £4m.
Meanwhile two new primary schools are planned – one for each phase of the housing development.
New primary schools are also planned in Bradwell, Fakenham, Bowthorpe, Long Stratton and Hellesdon to meet growing demand from housing developments.
There were also 15 areas where the council assessed that housing growth would have implications for existing schools: Aylsham, Dereham (Scarning and Toftwood), Roydon, Holt, Hoveton, King's Lynn (central and Woottons), Swaffham, Watton, Easton, Blofield, Trowse, Poringland and Wisbech.
Don't neglect our nurseries, says councillor
Greater demand for primary school places is likely to be preceded by pressure on pre-school places – a fact which opposition county councillors were keen to stress in relation to future school and childcare sufficiency planning.
Ed Maxfield, Liberal Democrat spokesman for children's services on Norfolk County Council, said the issue was more pertinent as funding pressures cause more nurseries to think about shutting their doors.
Mr Maxfield, councillor for Mundesley, said: 'Decent pre-school places are really important to give children a fair start but I am hearing more and more stories about nurseries planning to close.
'It's critical that the county council supports schools that are thinking about setting up nurseries, breakfast clubs and after school clubs – they are a great way to offer support to families.'
He added: 'The government needs to put its money where its mouth is too and make sure promises about free nursery places are properly funded.'
Mike Smith-Clare, Labour spokesman for children's services on the council, said: 'Our main concern is that the planning of school places might be destabilised by free schools opening where there isn't an actual need. With the regional schools commissioner refusing to come to Norfolk to discuss relevant issues then we are certainly lacking any firm assurance.'