The Education Specialist
Service Manager introduced the report and highlighted an inaccuracy
in the executive summary which stated that 180 places would be
created, when in fact 210 places would be created. She described
how the report was split into two sections, with the first section
asking for approval for £2.2m to increase the capacity of
Benyon Primary School to a two form
entry; and the second section asking for approval for £1m to
increase the number of secondary school places across the borough,
to ensure the Council met its statutory duty in September. She
stated that this report asked for comment, before going to Cabinet
next week, and elaborated that Cabinet had received a report in
November 2018 which included a feasibility study, but this report
brought back firm costings. She highlighted that there was as
shortfall of school places for children starting secondary school
in September, and the £1m to ensure there were places would
be coming from the Schools’ Basic Need fund.
The Chair began by stating it was important for the Council to meet its statutory duty in ensuring there were enough school places for children, and asked if the Benyon Primary expansion would be included within the current boundary of the site, and the Education Specialist Service Manager confirmed that it would be. She highlighted that a Traffic Impact Assessment had been undertaken on the site, as well as advice being sought from the highways team and pre-planning advice. The Chair then asked how large the shortfall was in secondary school places across the borough. The Education Specialist Service Manager replied that at the beginning of the year, there had been a shortfall of 300 places, but as national offer day on 1 March 2019 approached, the shortfall had reduced to 100, as parents had been requesting out of borough places. She clarified that the figure of 100 shortfall of placements included in-year applications.
The Chair then asked how much planning had been undertaken to find schools willing to take an additional bulge class. The Education Specialist Service Manager replied that lots of work had been done to find additional places, particularly in Grays and Stanford-le-Hope. She added that the additional places in Benyon Primary School were due to the development in Ockendon. She also commented that additional classrooms and facilities would be built in Benyon Primary School to accommodate the additional children.
Councillor Jefferies asked if the education team had spoken to local secondary schools about taking an additional bulge class and how easy it would be for schools to find those places. He also welcomed the expansion of Benyon Primary School. The Education Specialist Service Manager replied that lots of secondary schools had been asked to take the bulge class, and the response had been positive. Councillor Fletcher asked if the out of borough places for children had been voluntary, or if there were simply not enough school places for the children within the borough. The Education Specialist Service Manager replied that all out of borough placements were parental preference, and that all Thurrock children would have a place in a Thurrock school if they so wished. She commented that the shortfall of places this year was due to a delay in the delivery of the free schools programme, which had been delayed until September 2020. Councillor Fletcher replied that it was good to see new projects undertaken, but did not like to see a gap between the idea and the delivery. He welcomed the expansion of Benyon Primary School, although shared concerns regarding parking as there were currently problems with parking for Somers Heath Primary School. The Education Specialist Service Manager replied that a Traffic Impact Assessment had been undertaken, and the additional places should not pose an impact on local traffic as parents dropping off and picking up their children could have an hour of free parking in Canterbury Parade, which took the cars off highways.
Councillor Duffin asked what the definition of a bulge class was. The Education Specialist Service Manager replied that it was a temporary class that allowed a school to go over their PAN number for one year, which followed through the school. She explained that when a bulge class started in year 7, it remained until year 11.
1. The Committee agreed that the following recommendations be made to Cabinet in March 2019:
1.1 To approve a £2.2m budget for the expansion of Benyon Primary School to be funded from the School’s Basic Need capital funding 2019/20
1.2 To approve a budget of up to £1m for works to be undertaken to enable construction of additional classrooms in current secondary schools.
1.3 To progress the procurement process to secure design and construction for the expansion of Benyon Primary School to take forward the proposed schemes.
1.4 To delegate authority of the approval of the construction contract for the Benyon School scheme to the Corporate Director of Children’s Services, in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Education and Health