IT’s time to deliver on our pledge and improve education for all in Portsmouth.
That’s the clear message from the city council as it today unveils major plans to pour £4.7m into the transformation of schools to provide more places for students and improve their learning.
This is about making sure we have outstanding, and not just good, public services, and that starts with education.Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council
The move would benefit schools across the city as demand to accommodate more pupils grows.
Around 400 extra school places could be brought in by 2019, which could be done by refurbishing or extending existing buildings.
And there’s a focus on improving the lives of students with special needs who are being ‘failed’ by sub-standard facilities.
The News can reveal some pupils with the most severe needs are being sent for schooling as far afield as Birmingham, at a cost of £1.75m a year.
The plans form part of the Tory administration’s capital budget for the coming year, cash that local councils can use to pay for infrastructure like buildings, schools and roads.
The authority has set up a £12.9m pot to spend on a range of improvements and Tory council leader Donna Jones says education is once again one of the city’s key spending priorities.
St Edmund’s Catholic School, in Upper Arundel Street, Landport, is in line to get the biggest cash injection – £315,000 to provide 55 new places.
St Edmund’s headteacher Simon Graham praised the proposal, which will need to be agreed at a full council meeting.
He said: ‘The council has obviously carried out a feasibility study and looked at schools where there is over subscription and success.
‘We have both of those things here at St Edmund’s.
‘It’s very forward-thinking for the council to see where it can put students who won’t have access to secondary school places in a couple of years time. As parents, you want to be able to get your first or second school preference for your children.
‘It’s good news for the city and I am sure this will be good news for the parents in the next few years.’
It’s hoped the value of the project will rise to £7.25m thanks to government support. Cllr Jones said the cash could go towards finally seeing a secondary school in the city being rated as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted inspectors.
It comes after Cllr Jones unveiled a £3.1m plan to ease road congestion in the city, funding a state-of-the-art traffic-light computer system.
She said: ‘Over the last 18 months, we have made sure we are getting back to basics, creating new jobs and driving up educational standards.
‘This is about making sure we have outstanding, and not just good, public services, and that starts with education.
‘There should be no postcode lottery in Portsmouth when it comes to education.’
Cllr Jones added: ‘We have three special needs schools, and at the moment they are failing the children that are attending. They are not fit for purpose as they need to be.
‘We have some children with very complex needs and there needs are so complex, we are having to house and educate them in Birmingham where they have specialist schools. Those are very expensive places which we are funding every month.’