Parents’ anger as popular Portsmouth primary is told it can’t expand

NOT HAPPY Matthew and Marie Mason with their daughter Maddie, who cannot join her siblings at Westover Primary School in Copnor because of its popularity.  Picture: Steve Reid (121607-525)
NOT HAPPY Matthew and Marie Mason with their daughter Maddie, who cannot join her siblings at Westover Primary School in Copnor because of its popularity. Picture: Steve Reid (121607-525)
Terry Waite with students Ellie Williams-Brown, 17, Loren Dean, 18, and Shree Patel, 17   Picture :  Habibur Rahman

Terry Waite visits Portsmouth school to give talk

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CHILDREN have been turned away from a top primary school because Portsmouth City Council would rather expand a struggling school.

Westover Primary in Copnor has been praised by Ofsted and attracted 61 first-choice applications for 45 places this year.

But it is not being allowed to expand and instead children are being sent to Langstone Infants, which recently came out of notice to improve and had 60 first-choice applications this year for 90 places.

Langstone is being expanded to 120 places this year, even though this means housing children in temporary, portable buildings.

Some parents are furious.

Matthew and Marie Mason, of Chilcote Road, already have two girls at Westover.

But four-year-old Maddie, their youngest, has to go to Langstone.

Mr Mason, a 42-year-old building company director, said: ‘Westover has the capacity to expand – instead the council wants to throw money at temporary portable buildings.

‘Extra pupils means extra funding. It seems the council has an agenda to invest in an underachieving school at the expense of a good school.

‘How is my wife expected to be in two places at once? And why should my youngest be separated from her sisters?’

Another parent has threatened legal action.

The parents, Westover head Annie Gunthorpe and Lib Dem cabinet member Cllr Lynne Stagg are urging the council to reconsider.

They point to the fact that education secretary Michael Gove says good schools should be allowed to grow.

Cllr Stagg, a former teacher, said: ‘The council’s stance seems to contradict the government’s admissions policy.

‘Westover has a very good reputation, where Langstone has been in special measures. I find this puzzling.’

Mrs Gunthorpe says that she needs 15 more places to be able to take in siblings of current pupils and children living in the school’s catchment area.

She said: ‘Westover has always been over-subscribed and is one of the few schools in the city with a “good” or better Ofsted.

‘It is a school the local authority should be considering for expansion to accommodate an increase in numbers.’

Mike Stoneman, strategic commissioning manager for education in Portsmouth, said Westover’s expansion was not practical ‘in the short term’ due to building constraints.

He said Langstone’s increase was for one year group, as places have to be found for 129 extra four-year-olds this year.

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘We recently changed our admissions code to support all good schools that want to expand.’