Fears over future of city education after cash shortage

SETBACK King Richard School in Paulsgrove
SETBACK King Richard School in Paulsgrove
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Fears have been raised about the shortage of school places in Portsmouth and the impact it is having on children’s prospects.

The concerns come after a report released to The News reveals the city council needs to pay £2m towards the full reconstruction of King Richard School if it wants to keep its current capacity.

I am deeply disappointed the government wasn’t able to take a longer term view of secondary school requirements for Portsmouth.

Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council

The government has awarded the city £9m to rebuild premises at the Paulsgrove school – but that will only cover the cost of accommodating the 900 students who attend and not pay for a building matching the 1,080 total spaces currently available.

The reason is due to budget constraints – but local leaders say it is not good enough at a time when more children are going into primary schools and the need for secondary places will shoot up.

John Ferrett, Paulsgrove councillor and Labour parliamentary candidate for Portsmouth North, said the situation is leading to a ‘crisis’ in city education.

‘Clearly, we are at a crisis point with school places because the council leader has said so,’ he said.

‘She knows better than anyone, and she has been on the record telling the local MP the council has to prioritise funding enough school places.

‘We can’t do it on our own, we need help from central government. If the government cannot help us provide sufficient school places, we will be facing a crisis when primary school children go to find places at secondary schools.’

Portsmouth City Council’s strategic commissioning manager for education, Mike Stoneham, warned in a dossier to the authority’s corporate project board that the council’s ability to meet its statutory duties in relation to pupil place planning would be ‘compromised’ if capacity at King Richard is reduced.

Cllr Donna Jones, Tory leader of the city council, said it was ‘disappointing’ the government would not commit and is of the belief there are no primary school places left in areas like Baffins and Milton. But she said work is being done to try to find the extra £2m for King Richard. ‘I am deeply disappointed the government wasn’t able to take a longer-term view of secondary school requirements for Portsmouth,’ she said.

‘We are a growing city. That’s why I am working with the school’s headteacher, chair of governors and Luke Stubbs, cabinet member for planning and regeneration, to work on plans where we could unlock some of the land to provide a school with an extra 250 to 300 capacity.’

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Lib Dem candidate for Portsmouth South, said: ‘King Richard should have been rebuilt five years ago. All the secondary schools in the city decided between them it was the most important to rebuild and that’s where the investment needed to go. It didn’t happen.’

‘A whole generation of school children at King Richard’s have been failed because the school should have been rebuilt by now.’

Parties pledge to help schools and boost education

EDUCATION is a key priority for parties ahead of the general election.

The Lib Dems have revealed a key aim in its manifesto is to protect education spending per pupil in England for two-19 year olds. Lib Dem national leader Nick Clegg says his party will maintain funding for nurseries, schools and further education.

Labour and the Conservatives have also announced protections for education spending.

Portsmouth City Council is to spend £16m refurbishing schools to cope with an increase in pupil numbers. This year, it is predicted demand for Year R numbers will rise by 5.8 per cent between 2013/14 and 2015/16 from 2,353 to 2,490.

To read The News’ view on this click here.