The portable classroom – the bane of school days in a previous era of education – could be on the point of making a comeback in Barnsley as the council attempts to juggle growing pupil numbers with the space available for them.
Secondary school pupil numbers are set to increase in the borough’s central area in the years ahead and the council is already planning to build new facilities – likely to be free school, operated by a multi academy trust – on a site yet to be identified.
But that will not be available until 2021 and an additional 143 pupils will need to be accommodated over the next two school years.
A report to the council’s ruling Cabinet is now asking for approval to spend money creating additional space at two schools, Darton College where around £640,000 would be spent making changes to the building and an estimated £150,000 to provide what the report describes as a portable classroom or Portakabin to accommodate a “bulge class”.
Barnsley’s largest school, Horizon, could take an additional 20 pupils on a temporary basis for each of the two years without change, a report to the Cabinet states.
Darton College would need structural work to take more pupils on top of its current 1,200 headcount and Barnsley Academy has told the council it is not in a position to take more than its 900 existing pupils.
That has left the council looking towards Carlton Outwood Academy, which although outside the borough’s ‘central’ area, has an Ofsted rating of ‘good’ and is seen as a suitable candidate to provide more accommodation.
Work at Darton is complicated by the fact the school was built on the private finance initiative contract and as such needs the consent of its funders, but that restriction does not apply at Carlton.
The Outwood academy’s board would still need to approve the development, if approved by Cabinet members when the meet on February 6, and if all the changes are instigated, it is still projected there will be a shortfall of ten school place in September 2020.
However, eduacation officials in Barnsley believe they will be able to accomodate them across the town’s full estate of schools, when the date arrives.
Barnsley Council embarked on a massive project to replace its old secondary schools with a new network of fewer, larger, ‘advanced learning centres’ more than a decade ago and they have proved very successful in helping to drive up educational results.
Now they are under increasing pressure as the town’s population expands, however, with work in progress to expand Penistone Grammar School to take 250 extra pupils.
The situation may become more pronounced in the years ahead, because the council has just adopted a Local Plan which makes way for major housing developments – many focused on the urban centre of Barnsley – in the years until 2033.