New schools plan as demand soars

Totley County Primary School
Totley County Primary School
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THE first new primary schools for a generation are set to be built in Sheffield - with the chance of more being opened across the city in the years to come as demand for places soars.

Two primaries are expected to be constructed and made ready for September 2014 at a cost of £11 million, as the population steadily increases.

The schools will be academies and located in the north-east of the city, where the demand for places is greatest - but the future prospect of new primaries in Dore, Totley and Crosspool is not being ruled out.

Schools in the affluent suburbs are becoming over-subscribed because of a general increase in the number of applications, and work is being undertaken to assess the impact if the increased uptake continues.

The new schools will have two classes per year and are set be built on Skinnerthorpe Road, Fir Vale and on the site of the former Watermead school in Shirecliffe.

Watermead was merged with Shirecliffe, Busk Meadow and Watermead infant and junior schools in 2008 at a cost of £4.7million, forming Watercliffe Meadow School.

Longley Primary School was also merged with Southey Green Juniors in 2006, both in the same catchment area.

But the council have denied the mergers were short-sighted, saying they were implemented because of surplus places in the upper schools at the time, and the dilapidated state of existing facilities.

Sheffield Council’s cabinet is set to agree the proposals at a meeting on Wednesday.

The council is setting up the schools as academies in line with Government policy, and will be seeking expressions of interest from educational trusts to sponsor them.

A consultation will also be held next month and in January with local residents about the plans.

Coun Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for children, young people and families, said: “We know that making sure children are able to access good local primary school places in their community goes a long way to ensuring successful outcomes for them in the future.

“We also know that parents and carers having a direct involvement in schools has a massive effect in driving up standards.

“That is why it is absolutely essential that we provide the extra places that are needed and ensure there is a strong local voice and character within this process. It is vital that these new schools are successful and a good match for Sheffield and the local community they would serve.”

The two primaries will provide up to 420 places each, costing £5.5million per school.

Building on the Watermead site will result in the old primary being demolished before a replacement is constructed.

The project marks a change of strategy by education planners, who have been coping with rising birth rates for the last decade.

Over 1,000 more children entered primary school this term compared with 2001-2.

The response up to now has been to expand existing schools, with over 2,500 extra places created over the last six years.

But councillors will be told next week that continuing the policy is unsustainable with no sign of the birth rate slowing - and so new schools are the only option.

Forecasts show that pupils will outstrip places in areas such as Southey Green, Shirecliffe, Longley, Burngreave, Fir Vale and Firth Park from next September.

Demand for primary school places is growing nationally following the rise in the birth rate since 2002.

Sheffield has followed this national trend and the council has already undertaken a number of expansion projects, with over 2,500 primary places added to schools across the city in the last five years.

A citywide review in 2011 resulted in 11 primaries expanding to meet demand, and this year another two permanently increased their intake.

The most significant area of expansion is in the north east of the city, covering the communities of Southey Green, Shirecliffe, Longley, Burngreave, Fir Vale and Firth Park.

Despite the expansion of a number of local primary schools in the area, the continuing growth of the local population means that action to commission two new primary schools is now needed.

Elsewhere in the city, a small number of primary schools turned away pupils from their catchment areas in 2012.

These schools were Hucklow in Firth Park, Lydgate in Crosspool, Netherthorpe, Dore, Totley and Watercliffe Meadow.