Three new Norwich schools needed to cope with rising pupil numbers
Three new primary schools need to be built in Norwich to cope with a hike in the numbers of young children in the city, council bosses have announced.
New schools will have to be opened in Mile Cross, Sprowston and at a location in the south of the city because Norwich's population is increasing so rapidly.
That's the warning from officers at Norfolk County Council, who have recently had to ask headteachers to take extra pupils to ensure there were enough spaces in Norwich for the coming academic year.
Across the country, the number of primary school-aged children is set to jump by 21pc by 2020 compared with 2010, putting extra pressure on schools.
The number of children in this year's reception class is 1,266 compared with just 966 in years five and six.
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And, as reported in the Evening News, the city was facing a potential shortfall of hundred of places for next September's reception classes.
Talks with headteachers has resolved that problem in the short-term, with schools agreeing to make 345 places available on a temporary basis.
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But council officers looking for the longer term say new schools will be needed, especially with thousands more homes set to be built in and around Norwich in the years ahead.
The council is also exploring whether there could be more collaborative working between pairs of infant and junior schools.
A report which will come before councillors this week reveals that discussions are going on between officers at County Hall and Norwich City Council to find a location for a new school on the south side of the city, although it is not yet clear where that would be.
However, a site has been secured for a new school in Sprowston, close to the Tesco supermarket in Blue Boar Lane, while officers say it is possible that another school could have to be built in or near Mile Cross.
Alison Thomas, cabinet member for children's services at Norfolk County Council, said: 'We need to plan early to make sure there are sufficient school places where they are needed but this is a very challenging task as we need to be sure that this increased demand will continue before committing to build new schools.
'In areas of housing growth this can be easier to predict but we need to know exactly when and where properties will be developed and this can be difficult in the current economic climate.
'We are extremely grateful to headteachers and governors for recognising the impact on population growth, particularly in the Norwich area.
'The numbers of children nationally has been underestimated in recent years and this has meant acting quickly to ensure there are adequate places for the coming year and the medium term and we would not have been able to do this without the commitment and support of Norfolk's schools.'
Council bosses will be keen to avoid a repeat of the situation which arose in Dussindale, where a primary school was not built until years after the housing estate was completed.
Sue Whitaker, education spokesman for the Labour group at City Hall, said: 'With all the talk of Norwich expanding, which has been going on for the past 10 years, and with the birth rate going up, it is a bit strange that there only seem to be doing something about it now.'
The county councillor for Lakenham, added she was not aware of where on the south side of Norwich the third new school might be, but said she knew an extra teacher had been taken on at Tuckswood Primary School to cater for extra pupils.
The issue will be discussed when Norfolk County Council's children's services overview and scrutiny panel meets on Thursday.
• Do you have an education story? Call reporter Victoria Leggett on 01603 772468 or email firstname.lastname@example.org