A much-needed ready-made school could soon become available in north Leeds if plans by The Grammar School at Leeds are given the go-ahead.
The school has submitted a planning application to relocate its nursery and infant school from its current home at Rose Court in Headingley into a new purpose-built facility at its main Alwoodley site.
If approved, Grammar school bosses have stressed they “wish to see [Rose Court] retained for educational purposes for the benefit of the local community”.
The move has been cautiously welcomed by Headingley councillors who said the suburb’s primary schools are under “enormous pressure” with increasing demand for places.
Coun Neil Walshaw (Lab) said: “We have three excellent schools in Headingley who are a victims of their own success. They are effectively full. There is enormous pressure in Headingley. I have constituents who have kids at two different schools. We need more capacity.”
But he criticised the central government rules which make it impossible for councils to build and open new schools and instead be reliant on free school providers.
The Education Act 2011 stipulates that all new schools have to be academies or free schools - despite local authorities retaining responsibility for ensuring sufficient school places locally. To create more school places, councils can only expand existing community schools.
Coun Walshaw said: “If it was up to us, we would have a school up and running by September 2017. But with a free school that could [most likely] be delayed by a year.
“By some miracle hopefully someone will come forward as soon as possible, who could rapidly provide children in Headingley with a good solid education - hopefully by September 2018 at the latest.”
Rose Court in Headingley has been in educational use for over 90 years and is currently used by 300 pupils.
Sue Woodroofe, the Grammar School at Leeds’ principal, said: “We wish to bring our Rose Court pupils to the main school site at Alwoodley Gates to create a unified primary phase and provide them with an educational environment specially designed for their needs. This will mean all our pupils will benefit from a high quality, purpose-built learning environment and a smooth transition through the different stages of their education, as part of a whole school community.
“The approval of this plan would enable us to explore future options for the Rose Court site in Headingley, which we wish to see retained for educational purposes for the benefit of the local community.”
Last year the YEP reported how demand for primary school places in the city hit a 15-year peak, with an estimated 10,500 new starters up from 7,500 in 2001, when the lowest annual cohort was recorded.