With many London boroughs facing major shortages for primary school places because of rapid population growth and under-investment, the recent announcement that three local schools are to receive a multimillion-pound expansion has been widely welcomed.
Waltham Forest Council has appointed Willmott Dixon Construction Ltd with a contract worth £12.5million to expand Jenny Hammond Primary School in Worsley Street, Leytonstone; Mayville Primary School in Lincoln Street, Leytonstone; and Chingford Hall Primary Academy in Burnside Avenue, Chingford.
Jenny Hammond will receive £5.25m, Mayville £3.7m, and Chingford Hall Primary £3.6m. When complete each expanded school will have an extra 210 places – a new class for every year group.
The move comes two years after research suggested Waltham Forest would have 25 percent more children than it could provide a place for by 2016.
Local teachers say schools are already struggling to cope with ever-rising numbers. Temporary buildings have been used and in some cases playground space has been reduced to allow for expansion.
Many children have to find places far outside their catchment area contributing to fears of increased absence and lateness particularly if they have a sibling at another school across the borough.
Councillor Mark Rusling, the council’s cabinet member for children and young people, said: “London’s fast-rising population is inevitably putting more pressure on school places, and local authorities have a statutory obligation to provide sufficient places within their areas.
“The government has made it more difficult for us to do that, by banning us from opening new schools. Despite these restrictions we池e committed to providing what our parents want – places at local schools that can provide their child with an outstanding education.”
Since the Education Act introduced in 2011, all newly-built state schools must be either acadamies or free schools operated independently from the council. There are also incentives for existing state schools to convert to academy status.
As a result, in Waltham Forest the number of academies has risen from just one to 22, nearly one in every three of the borough’s state schools. Chingford Hall, one of the three primary schools being expanded, converted to academy status in 2012.
Cllr Rusling said: “Proposals for new extensions and alterations have been developed in consultation with the schools, to enable each of them to offer an additional 210 places.
“Work has already started, with minor adaptations taking place in the summer holidays so that an additional reception class can be admitted this September.
“And, this building work is supplemented by proposals to provide additional furniture and ICT equipment at each school.”
Having recently celebrated the A-Level success of record numbers of Waltham Forest students, 1,795, an increase of 38 per cent compared to 2013/14, it is essential those children embarking on their school careers this month are given the same opportunities for academic success.
By Sarah Jones