HUNDREDS of new school places are to be created in Portsmouth to help tackle a city-wide shortage.
Education officials at Portsmouth City Council are considering turning a secondary school in the heart of the city into an ‘all-through’ school catering for pupils aged from four to 16.
The move, which would involve opening a new primary school on the site of Mayfield School, North End, would create an extra 420 primary places, to be added gradually over a seven-year period.
Education leaders believe this would help ease the growing problem of a shortage of school places in the city due to a higher-than-expected birth rate and new housing developments.
Several schools have had to temporarily expand to deal with demand and some city centre pupils are having to travel elsewhere in Portsmouth for school – in turn leading to pressure on places in other areas.
Mike Stoneman, strategic commissioning manager for education at the council, said the Mayfield proposal was aimed at averting a future school places crisis.
Mr Stoneman said: ‘We wouldn’t be doing this unless we thought there was a deficit in school places going forward.
‘Our forecasts show that we have got a shortage of school places at the moment that will continue for the foreseeable future. The forecast demonstrates that by having another 420 places in the city, it will have an impact on other primary schools because of the fact that we have such few places.
‘Further ahead, if you look at the development in Tipner that will put increased pressure on places as well. This is definitely needed. Even this I don’t think will be sufficient
‘We will need more places but this will make a big important step in meeting the deficit we have in school places. There is no doubt in the council’s mind that these places are needed.’
David Jeapes, headteacher at Mayfield School, said: ‘It’s about making sure that our school responds to our community demographics.
‘There is a large shortfall of school places across the city.
‘From our perspective we want to make best use of the school site. It seems crazy if there are children who now face long journeys to school outside their immediate locality, and we have got the possibility to accommodate them.’
The project would cost £1.8m and it would see old buildings being refurbished, instead of building new ones.
Mr Jeapes added: ‘For parents who want to build a single relationship in school, it could provide a very good alternative to the three-tier model of infant, junior and secondary school.
‘Overall, it seems there are lots of reasons why it’s something we should explore.’
A consultation period is currently being held. If the plans go ahead, the school would open in September next year.