Havering cabinet to vote on £4.6m of ‘bulge’ primary school expansions for 2014 after birth rate hike, influx of new families

Branfil Primary School was among the schools expanded for 2013

Branfil Primary School was among the schools expanded for 2013 - Credit: Archant

Multi-million-pound plans to stave off a crisis of primary school places in the borough will go before Havering Council’s cabinet next week.

Cllr Paul Rochford

Cllr Paul Rochford - Credit: Archant

Education bosses hope eight of the 23 “bulge classes” they need by September 2014 can be provided using existing spaces at minimal cost – but the remaining 15 will need to be built from scratch. The programme is expected to set the council back £4.6million.

The cash will be taken out of Havering’s government grant for 2014/15 – money that normally wouldn’t be allocated until the setting of the council’s 2014 budget.

It’s hoped the bulge classes will be built on the same sites as the schools that will eventually be expanded for September 2015, as the funds would originally have been used for that work.

Officers’ other recommendations also include “encouraging” free schools into the borough to soak up the 266 extra four-year-olds expected to enter the system in September, and to help plug the gap of 1,416 extra places that will be needed between ages four and 11.

Most of these are needed to meet the government target of a five per cent surplus in the school system.

It was originally hoped the 15 primary schools expanded in 2012/13 to the tune of £16.6m would see the borough through until 2015.

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But more “bulge classes” had to be opened in September.

The report due to go before the cabinet on Wednesday predicts Havering will need 5,000 more primary places by 2022 than it currently has.

A council spokesman said the increased demand was down to the birth rate soaring “beyond previous projections”, as well as a rise in the number of families settling in Havering.

Cllr Paul Rochford, Havering’s cabinet member for children and learning, said: “We’re not alone in experiencing this unforeseeable increase in demand for primary school places – it’s a nationwide issue.

“So we’re working hard to ensure we can provide enough places while also maintaining our record for great schools.”

Havering’s first free school, Oasis Academy Romford, is expected to take 90 pupils when it opens in September 2014.