Walthamstow faces a massive shortfall in school places which will get much worse by 2013 if urgent action is not taken, according to answers obtained by local Liberal Democrat councillors at a meeting of the Walthamstow West Community Council on Monday (1 March).
Council officers told the meeting that if nothing is done 162 reception-age children due to start school in the Walthamstow area will have no school place in September; equivalent to five-and-a-half classes. Currently local schools have capacity for 3090 reception-aged pupils but the projected intake is 3252 pupils.
By 2013 over 500 pupils will not have a school place to go to.
Reasons for the shortfall include increasing birth rates and the number of families with young children moving into the borough. This means many children face being educated in temporary classrooms.
Worryingly the portfolio holder in charge of schools, Cllr Liaquat Ali (Labour, High Street) was at the meeting but was unable to provide any details about how he proposed to deal with the problem.
Liberal Democrat councillors are demanding that the council gets a grip on the situation and produces a credible long-term plan to deliver the school places that local families need.
Liberal Democrat councillor James O Rourke, who chairs the Children and Young Peoples Overview and Scrutiny Committee, said:
“Cllr Ali couldn’t point to a single action he or his predecessor, the Council leader, had taken to ensure local people have somewhere to send their children. It’s time someone got a grip on the situation.”
Cllr Patrick Smith, Liberal Democrat councillor chair of the community council, said:
“The Liberal Democrats have been worried for some time about the increasing strain placed on local primary schools by the growing population. More and more children are being crammed into temporary classrooms. We know that teachers will do their best to deliver high quality teaching but it isn’t fair that children should be expected to learn in these conditions.
“Pressure for school places comes from numerous new developments in the Walthamstow area including an expected 1,000 new families in the Blackhorse Lane regeneration area.”