Controversial plans to expand a primary school by more than 200 places look set to be approved by Leeds City Council decision-makers, despite experts labelling the idea “risky”.
Plans involve extending Moor Allerton Hall Primary School to a three-form entry from September 2019. This would increase the capacity from 420 pupils to 630 pupils over a number of years, with each intake rising from 60 to 90 pupils.
But experts at the council’s schools organisation advisory board (SOAB) said the planned expansion would have to take place in a “phenomenally short amount of time” and unanimously advised against the planned expansion.
Leeds City Council believes school places in North Leeds need to be increased sooner rather than later, and a report going before members of the council’s executive board recommends the plans be accepted.
It read: “The proposal remains strong and addresses the local authority’s statutory duty to provide sufficient school places, to provide places close to where children live, allow improved accessibility to local school places, manage resources effectively and to support good levels of attendance. It is our recommendation that the proposals are approved.”
This is despite a panel of education professionals recommending the plans be rejected. SOAB suggested the school was continually under-subscribed and required improvement.
It also added it was not close enough to the area with the need for extra school places.
Chairing the meeting back in August, Angela Cox said: “We recognise there is a need for places, and this is an extremely ambitious and complex plan with a challenging time-scale.
“There would be significant highways issues that would need to be addressed.
“We are not sure that it gives parents anything to do with preference and there needs to be more work done to manage this.
“Our recommendations to executive board is a unanimous ‘no’. We believe it is extremely risky.”
Parent Andrew Kirby, a parent who lives in Roundhay, has been campaigning against the plans.
On hearing the plans, he said: “It is utterly bizarre that the local authority is seemingly pushing forward with these plans despite the independent panel’s decision not to recommend them.”
A statement from Leeds City Council claimed primary school places in north Leeds have been under pressure for several years and these proposals form part of the solution for the area.
Coun Jonathan Pryor, executive member for learning, skills and employment said: “Since 2009 we’ve added over 12,000 additional school places across the city; this proposal adds to those, forming part of the solution for providing additional places in north Leeds and helping ensure families in the area have access to local school places.”
Richard Beecham , Local Democracy Reporting Service