Crisis over shortage of school places

Coun Mark Perks
Coun Mark Perks
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Chorley is facing a “ticking timebomb” over the number of school places, it has been claimed.

Hundreds of extra primary and secondary school places will soon be needed as more and more housing goes up throughout the borough.

Lancashire County Council’s strategy in tackling the issue was blasted this week by a Chorley county councillor.

Chorley North’s Mark Perks said he had serious concerns over the way the county council was handling the issue and described the situation as “frightening.”

He expressed his fears as it emerged parents throughout Chorley are publicly protesting after being unable to get their children into schools of their choice.

County Coun Perks said: “I would go so far as say this is going to be a major problem for families with both primary and secondary children.

“It has the potential to have a real impact on the quality of education, choice of schools and a disaster in the making if LCC doesn’t take a proactive -rather than reactive - stance.”

Lancashire County Council education chiefs are meeting Chorley’s county councillors to discuss the situation on Thursday.

County Coun Matthew Tomlinson, cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said: “Across the county 97 per of offers for primary school and academy reception places were for one of the parents’ preferred choices.

“Overall in Chorley, after the initial round of primary school offers for September 2014, there were 20 schools which still had available reception places – around 110 in total.”

He said the authority was aware Chorley needed more school places.

He added: “For example, we anticipate that in 2015 the Euxton and Buckshaw areas will need two additional classes per year group, totalling 420 places, with the same needed in the Chorley Central area.

“On top of that, we are looking at providing two additional secondary classes per year group, which would mean a total of 300 extra places.”

County Coun Perks, who is a Chorley primary and high school governor, said: “This is a ticking timebomb.

“In the next five years, there’s going to be more than 1,000 more houses in Buckshaw Village, other developments at Euxton, the rugby club land at Astley Village, Cuerden, the north part of Chorley.

“There’s not going to be enough primary school places, and secondary schools in Chorley won’t have enough places.

“It’s going to impact on great parts of Chorley.”

County Coun Perks highlighted a number of issues for his Chorley North district – which includes schools in Astley and Buckshaw, Euxton North and Clayton and Whittle – with figures taken from the strategy report.

n Birth rate Chorley in 2002/20o3 (1,057 births); 2011/12 (1,245) an 17.79 per cent increase. Projected intake for 2013/14 (1,287).

He said: “In addition to birth rate increase, LCC has to take into account new housing supply as per Chorley five year plan and factor this in.

“The strategy omits certain housing developments and does not identify how the factor is calculated.

“Failing to operate an open transparent system to check against the risk could be a massive miscalculation as in past years affecting Buckshaw Village.

“LCC has now suddenly changed the school clusters/catchments within Chorley cutting across communities, ward boundaries and division boundaries, making a mockery of parental choice etc.”

n Of six Chorley school area cluster groups, only two are listed in the report as having additional housing;

n Chorley Central has 445 places - 465 pupils in 2015/16 means a shortage of 20 places, but with 693 homes to be built over a five-year period, there is a potential for an additional 118 pupils adding to a shortage of places;

n Chorley Euxton currently has 190 places. 193 pupils in 2015/16 (shortage of three places).

County Coun Perks added; “Around 1,084 homes are to be built over five years and some already built have an extra potential for an additional 184 pupils adding to shortage of places

“I would argue the figure does not include a number of sites and would suggest it is more like 1,358 homes at the Chorley RUFC site, Pear Tree Lane site, Dorrobin site, group one land at Buckshaw Village and still homes on group four site at Buckshaw Village.

“The report does not identify Adlington, Coppull, Chorley Rural West, Clayton-le-Woods/Whittle or Chorley North area schools and homes being built in these areas, for example Charnock Richard.”

County Coun Perks said the schools in his division had 1,805 on roll with 1978 places.

But the 420 places at Trinity CE/Methodist Primary in Buckshaw include the new two-form entry building of which reception, year one and year are full, with junior places planned to fill up over time.

“Effectively all the schools currently have no more capacity for infant aged children and these class sizes cannot exceed the 30 per class,” he said.

“The potential required places as a result of new housing in Euxton means there will be no places for these families.

“To make it more complex, some families have siblings already in the schools there is evidence they are not getting their first choice.

“Lancashire County Council has also not included the homes being built in Whittle-le-Woods – the Redrow development, that’s 400, and homes over at Clayton Cuerden on the A49, another 600. So based on the authority’s own figures regarding Euxton, the calculation is another potential 184 children needing school places in


Lancashire County Council described County Coun Perks’ figures as largely accurate.

Parents have hit out after not being able to get their children into their first choice of school – despite meeting the required criteria.

Online petitions have been organised for at least two schools in the Chorley area – Buckshaw Trinity CE/Methodists and St Gregory’s RC primaries.

The Buckshaw petition on, calling for a new school to be built, states: “Buckshaw Village continues to expand and the existing primary school is already significantly over subscribed. It is important that children living in the village can get to and from school easily, receive a good standard of education and can play with their peers outside of the school day.”

It has reached 50 signatures.

Supporter Kelly Stott, of Buckshaw Village, wrote: “I live in the village and am currently awaiting my appeal letter as my four-year-old daughter was not accepted for this year’s intake.”

John Booth, of Chorley, said; “I’m looking for schools in the near future for my daughter. It seems that as I live too far from Buckshaw School we won’t get a place, problem being I only live 0.75 miles away. Disgraceful.”

Amanda Chadwick, of Buckshaw Village, said: “I live in Buckshaw Village and have done so for the last seven years and yet there was no chance that our children or several other children in my street would get into the purpose built primary school even though we were the first phase built.”

Rachael Whittle, of Buckshaw Village, said; “I live a stone’s throw away from Trinity School, my son at present only being 6.5 months old, I’m very worried he won’t get a place in a nearby school.”

The St Gregory’s petition states: “Change the sibling criteria to second priority and add more funding to accommodate bigger class sizes.”

One mum, who has been trying to get a child into St Gregory’s RC Primary, and who asked not to be named, told the Guardian: “A lot of siblings at St Gregory’s are not getting in, These parents are Catholics and churchgoers and live within half a mile.

“People living very, very close, half a mile away who have children in year one and other years, can’t get in.

“I’m expected to take one child to one school and one child to another.

“How are parents meant to get two different children to two separate schools when they are little?

“There are children who haven’t got siblings at the school who are being allowed in.”

A Lancashire County Council spokesman said: “St Gregory’s Catholic Primary School received a total of 108 preferences for 30 available places (including 53 first preferences).

“There were therefore many families who unfortunately did not receive an offer for this school.”

Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle said: “The shortage of primary school places at some of our schools here in Chorley has been particularly acute this year.

“I have been contacted by parents who are concerned that their child cannot get into the school of their choice and this is not surprising when certain schools have three to four times as many pupils applying compared to places available.

“In light of this, I believe the county council needs to look at providing more school places and build more primary schools within our borough.

“Chorley has seen a huge amount of house building in recent years and this will continue in the future.

“This has an obvious impact on demand for our local schools and we need to act now to address this issue.”