Leeds City Council is forging ahead with a £44m plan to expand primary schools in the city as it tries to tackle a potential shortfall of 4,000 places.
At last night’s meeting of Leeds City Council’s executive board, senior councillors laid out the latest round of a range of planned primary school expansions, which would eventually see it expand 22 schools, and add up to 660 places.
The authority is warning, however, that it still faces a massive funding gap to meet the £77 million it needs to deal with the looming crisis brought on by the city’s booming birth rate.
The YEP reported yesterday that the number of primary school pupils in Leeds is predicted to rise to 69,641 by 2016/17, according to the Local Government Association. But the city currently has capacity for just over 65,000 pupils in its primary schools.
The council has just won £8.3m of additional Government funding to help put its latest expansions plans in place, to add to £36m allocated last year.
The city’s children’s services boss, councillor Judith Blake, told the YEP: “In overall terms, we are still tens of millions of pounds short.
“And we have still got a long way to go.” But she added: “Making sure that we have enough places for the children in the city is one of our top priorities.”
She said the authority is also hoping to work with developers of new housing schemes to encourage them to contribute cash towards the creation of further school places.
At yesterday’s meeting of the executive board, cabinet members approved the expansion of five Leeds primary schools, Allerton Bywater, Asquith, Morley St Francis Catholic, East Ardsley and Robin Hood primary schools. They also approved initial steps to consult on the possible expansion of Pudsey Primrose Hill, and the lowering of the age range at Hollybush Primary to allow for earlier admissions.
Coun Blake said there is already some “very innovative” work being done in the city to deal with the school places crisis. But she added the city’s coffers are still “woefully short” of the funds needed to cover emerging and future need.
“We know there is a need and Local Government is prepared to do everything it has to do to provide places,” she said.
“But the Government has to take very seriously the shortfall in funding for school places.
“Leeds is a very successful city, a lot of people want to come and live here, and we need to accommodate them.”