Council in talks to create more primary places in Leeds

Councillor Lucinda Yeadon
Councillor Lucinda Yeadon
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TALKS are underway between schools and council bosses in Leeds over creating hundreds of extra reception places to cope with an expected surge in four-year-olds starting school next year.

Leeds City Council says it has to create the equivalent of 25 extra classes to meet the demand in September 2016.

And it has warned that it is facing a shortfall of £69.5m in the money it receives from the Government to provide these places.

Reception places became a controversial issue in the city this year after parents in Roundhay, Moortown and Alwoodley claimed they were living in a schools blackhole with no chance of getting a local place.

The Fair Access group was formed after around 80 parents missed out on any of their preferred schools.

After National Offer Day, in April, Leeds City Council was able to secure an extra 90 places at three schools which dealt with the issue this year. However the cohort starting school in 2016 is expected to be bigger than this year’s and the council has identified the need to create more than 700 places to meet demand.

The council is looking to create the equivalent of 25 extra reception classes - of 30 pupils - across the city. Of these 20 of the new classes will need to be permanent and five will be one-off bulge classes. A new council report on the city’s Learning Places Programme, which is to be published today, shows that agreements have already been reached to provide the equivalent of four extra classes in areas including Armley, Beeston, Bramley. Meanwood, Middleton and Pudsey.

The report to the authority’s excecutive board also shows that discussions or consultations are ongoing with schools in 21 other areas about providing extra places. Extra places are needed in around half of the planning areas in Leeds.

The council report says that the equivalent of two extra classes are needed in Roundhay next year. Planning beyond that in Roundhay will depend on whether plans for a new two form entry free school for 2017 are given the go ahead by the Government. Some of the parents involved in the Fair Access group have now submitted a bid to open their own primary free school.

Councillors will be told that since 2009 the city council has already created 1,400 new reception places.

The report says that it is unlikely that the 20 extra classes which are needed permanently can be contained within existing school buildings. A “cross council” review is now underway to identify council-owned sites which could be used.

The estimated overall cost of the work needed to provide the extra primary places is £146m.

Coun Lucinda Yeadon said: “We are confident that we will deliver these places -we have to do it.”

She said letters were sent to schools before the summer term to inform them of the need for additional spaces and that talks were now underway across the city.

The council is urging parents whose children start school next year to use the online application service as they will be able to get updates on extra school places that have been agreed between now and the deadline for applying - January 15 next year.

The report to the council’s executive board on October 21 also says four new secondary schools will be needed in the city.