Alarm bells ring at plans for huge schools expansion in Fareham

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HEADTEACHER Phil Munday has warned against rushing to expand schools and build new ones.

Mr Munday, of Henry Cort Community College in Fareham, has spoken out as Hampshire County Council launches a consultation into a major schools expansion plan.

While he welcomes the review into how to deal with the growing population, he says making existing schools too big and building new ones that may not be needed in the long run could dilute the quality of education.

Mr Munday, whose 868-pupil school is under-subscribed by up to 25 places a year, said: ‘We have plenty of capacity in Fareham at the moment, but I accept we have to keep an eye on pupil numbers.

‘The danger with expanding already large schools is that it will have an impact on the quality of education, and on the other hand schools that are too small will not be able to fund a broad curriculum and facilities.

‘New developments in Fareham will create immediate population hikes, but once those families are settled the numbers will drop again. We have to be very careful to get the balance right.’

The draft School Places Plan led by Cllr Roy Perry, the county council’s education boss, proposes four new primaries and a secondary in Fareham, as well as the expansion of existing schools near Peter’s Road, north of Whiteley and Coldeast Hospital.

The calculations are based on a predicted rise in demand on primary school places over the next 10 years which will have a knock-on effect on secondaries currently under-subscribed by eight per cent.

Brookfield Community College, which has 1,755 pupils on roll, has agreed to expand to 1,800 but head Ria Allan says this will be ‘unlikely’ judging by the demographics. She said she supports Mr Munday’s concerns.

In Gosport, a need for primary schools has been identified with 29 reception year children without a place in 2012 and two per cent too few primary places in 2015.

And Emsworth Primary will grow to accommodate pupils from the Hampshire Farm and Oaktree Drive developments.

Cllr Perry said: ‘We are committed to providing children and young people with equal access to excellent learning opportunities regardless of where in the county they live.’

To contribute to the consultation, which includes 19 to 21 new primary schools and two secondaries, write to Ian Lawson, school organisation officer at the county council, or email him at ian.lawson@hants.gov.uk before March 31, 2012.