700 new places for our schools

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Plans to add hundreds of additional school places to Chronicle Country are set to be discussed next week.

Central Bedfordshire Council’s executive committee is meeting on Tuesday, August 19, when it will hear about plans to add space for almost 700 more students in the area.

The plans include:

> 120 additional spaces at Edward Peake Middle School in Biggleswade, bringing capacity up from 480 students to 600 by September 1, 2015

> 400 additional places at Stratton Upper School in Biggleswade, bringing the total up to 1,650 students by September 1 2016.

> 150 additional places at Roecroft Lower School in Stotfold, bringing its total up to 450 students.

The plans also include the relocation of Stotfold’s Pippin Pre-school within the Roecroft Lower School grounds, to enable existing and future pressures on Roecroft Lower School’s accommodation to be managed.

And a report to the council also recommends commencement of statutory consultation to permanently expand Roecroft Lower School in Stotfold as a result of continued and forecast demographic growth in that area, and the admission to the school of a third reception class from September 2014, an increase which is forecast to be sustained in future years.

In April 2009 Central Beds inherited the legal obligation to implement the former county council’s plan to relocate Roecroft and enlarge it to provide a total of 300 places by September 2010.

This was done as the major housing development on land south of Stotfold had placed additional pressure on the school.

In November 2009 the council approved the funding to relocate and enlarge the school, but with an amended date of September 2011. The final design that was approved by the council included the flexibility for potential further expansion, along with space for Pippin Pre-school, a 60-place pre-school that has been rated as Outstanding by Ofsted inspectors.

But pupil numbers in the enlarged school have ballooned from 158 in 2011 to 269 in 2014. The report explains: “The rate of continued housing development, the local impact of the increased birth rate which is evident also at national level and the inability of neighbouring authorities to accommodate the preference of some Stotfold parents applying for a school place outside of the area all contributed to the additional pressure on local places.”