School places are running dry

RUNNING DRY Primary school places are few and far between
RUNNING DRY Primary school places are few and far between

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Schools across our area are facing a pupil crisis as year-on-year the demand for school places rises.

With an increasing birth rate, schools are starting to run out of space.

This year Portsmouth City Council spent £465,000 to provide an extra 74 temporary school places for children throughout the city.

The council is now consulting with headteachers on a School Organisation Plan up until 2018 which would identify 80 additional Reception places for September 2013 and beyond.

Many primary and infant schools are being considered for expansion to deal with a predicted rise in demand for places over the next few years.

They include Arundel Court Infants, Cottage Grove Primary, Somers Park Primary and Highbury Primary.

Hampshire County Council has also recently announced plans to increase the capacity of schools across the county. A total of £200m will be needed over the next five years to meet the demand.

Chris Williams, pupil place planning manager at Portsmouth City Council, says: ‘We are working on a school organisation plan and we did put additional places on for this year.

‘Some of these will continue for future years. We are always looking to put additional places in to meet the demand for next year as well.

‘We are having to keep a very close eye on what happens with the effect on the economy and numbers.

‘We are making sure that good effective planning is in place to make sure that there are enough places across the city.

‘In some of these schools depending how they work there, some schools are using existing members of staff whereas others are having to bring in teaching staff.’

In Portsmouth, there is currently capacity available within the overall number of primary schools – however, there is pressure on Reception year places.

In September this year, the total number of applications received for Reception classes in Portsmouth was 2,346 with the number of places available 2,372.

While there is space for every child, in practice it is not equally spread out across the city.

Many schools become oversubscribed, and some parents choose to send their children to primaries outside of their catchment area.

And sometimes there may be too many children living in one particular area. To meet this increased demand 74 additional places were provided and schools had to increase their Reception take in.

Figures reveal:

· Somers Park Primary School went from 45 to 60

· Highbury Primary School, from 45 to 59

· Cottage Grove Primary School, from 45 to 55

· Langstone Infant School, from 90 to 120

· Arundel Court infant School, from 70 to 75

This means that many parents are finding their child does not get their first choice school so face having to drive their children to schools further away from home.

While some children face attending different schools to their siblings.

In September this year, 383 children didn’t get their first preference compared to 317 in September last year, for applications which were received on time.

Mr Williams said there were ‘a number of reasons’ why there is a pressure of primary and infant schools.

‘There is a national issue around the increasing birth rate which is not only nationwide but also in Portsmouth,’ he says.

‘Also the economy is starting to affect migration patterns which affects pupil numbers.’

The council has to predict the number of school places needed across the city.

‘In the past our forecasts have been accurate,’ adds Mr Williams.

‘But what we have noticed is with the changes in the economy that it has started to affect our forecasted numbers. We have been working with schools that may in the past have reduced their admission numbers. We have worked with them to put the numbers back up to what it has been in the past. It’s very important that parents do apply on time for a school place and do work closely with the council at the time they are applying for a school place for their child.’

Across Fareham, Gosport and Havant this year there were 3,659 school places available for Reception year places – with 3,538 applications received for schools in theses areas.

However, there were still 32 oversubscribed primary and infant schools for children about to start school in the Reception year.

Councillor Roy Perry, executive lead member for children’s services at Hampshire County Council, says: ‘It’s a question of parental preference. There is no doubt at all that some schools are popular and they do become oversubscribed.

‘In general terms there are enough places in Gosport, Fareham and Havant to meet those places.’

But Cllr Perry adds that sending children to attend school further away can become problematic.

‘There is always a question of parents living outside of the area who choose to apply for a school in a different area,’ he says.

‘We find a lot of families in the Whiteley area want to apply for schools in Fareham, for example.

‘It’s quite clear that there is a rising demand for school places. We are going to need £200m over the next five years to meet the demand for additional school places.

‘In any one year 14,000 children in Hampshire go into the Reception class. That might be starting to go up. We are clearly making the provision.

‘But we have to be careful not to make the over provision, particularly in primary schools. There is a bit of movement across the county border particularly in Emsworth where the West Sussex schools aren’t that far away. We have to take those movements into account. It’s a very complicated process. But I am delighted to say that there is a place for every child in Hampshire. Over 90 per cent get their first preference and 95 per cent get one of their first three preferences.’

And Cllr Perry adds that parents need to ensure they fill out the forms within the correct time to give their children the best chance at getting into their preferred school.

‘I do advise parents to get their applications in on time and to think carefully about making sure that one of their first three preferences is their catchment school,’ he says.

‘We will do our level best to make sure that their child gets their place. We don’t want to have to send children long distances.’


Hampshire County Council has recently announced provisional plans to invest in the provision of 1,000 extra school places across the county.

The £15m project would provide extra space at Emsworth Primary School, which has a capacity of 210 but which needs space to accommodate an additional 105 children. A public consultation will take place.

And Westover Primary School in Copnor regularly attracts large numbers and has been oversubscribed for many years.

Meanwhile, Whiteley Primary School has been oversubscribed for years, with an average of 30 extra applications received every year.

Many parents have been forced to take their children on lengthy daily trips to schools outside the town.

But earlier this year, proposals were announced to open a new 210 pupil £4.5m Church of England Voluntary aided primary school.

And as reported in The News, 95 per cent of parents gave their support for the plans in a public consultation.

Mum-of-two Laura Poustie, 32, who lives in Whiteley, says: ‘It’s been a massive concern.

‘There have been many sleepless nights. I do have friends who have had their house on the market and friends who have moved out because of it.

‘In this day and age education is so important. It’s not good when you pay a lot of money to live in a nice area and your children can’t get into a local school.’



Arundel Court Infant

Portsdown Primary

St Swithuns Catholic Primary

The Victory Primary

Westover Primary


Castle Primary School

Crofton Anne Dale Infant School

Crofton Hammond Infant School

Harrison Primary School

Hook-With-Warsash Church Of England Primary School

Park Gate Primary School

Ranvilles Infant School

Red Barn Community Primary School

Redlands Primary School

Sarisbury Infant School

St Anthony’s Catholic Primary School

Titchfield Primary School

Uplands Primary School

Whiteley Primary School

Wicor Primary School


Alverstoke Community Infant School

Brockhurst Infant School

Gomer Infant School

Lee-On-The-Solent Infant School

Leesland Church Of England (Controlled) Infant School

Newtown Church Of England (Voluntary Controlled) Primary School

Peel Common Infant School And Nursery Unit

St Mary’s Catholic Voluntary Aided Primary School, Gosport

Woodcot Primary School


Front Lawn Infant School

Morelands Primary School

Queens Inclosure Primary School

Riders Infant School

Sharps Copse Primary And Nursery School

St Alban’s Church Of England (Aided) Primary School

St James’ Church Of England (Controlled) Primary School, Emsworth

Warren Park Primary School