Saffron Walden primary school to expand from September – and two more could follow suit

Essex County Council Essex County Council

Thursday, May 8, 2014
11:15 AM

A Saffron Walden primary school is to expand from September – while two more have agreed to look into following suit.

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Essex County Council (ECC) ­officials have admitted schools in the town are “virtually full” and steps are being taken to alleviate the pressure.

St Mary’s Primary, in Castle Street, will offer an extra 30 places from the beginning of the next school year, while expansion talks have also been held between ECC and two unnamed Walden primary schools.

Feasibility studies will now be carried out to look into the possibility, with the outcome expected in June.

Additional places at St Mary’s will allow the school to operate seven classes instead of six, giving it a total capacity of 210. Up to now, age groups have been mixed because classes were not full.

The current capacity of primary school places in Saffron Walden is 1,325. In January, 1,321 were on roll.

With just over 1,000 extra homes earmarked for the east side of town by 2031, of which planning ­permission for 367 was granted last week, demand for school places is expected to rise.

On top of the expansion of existing schools, another primary school is set to be built as part of a 200-home scheme, between Thaxted Road and Radwinter Road, which was approved by Uttlesford District Council’s ­planning committee.

Speaking at the meeting, Neil Keylock, ECC’s pupil place planning manager, said the authority had requested funding and a site to accommodate the additional pupils new housing would generate.

Places at secondary schools are also a controversial issue. Saffron Walden County High is operating above its capacity of 1,972, with the last roll count placing the number of pupils at 2,062. Mr Keylock said County High had agreed to expand to a capacity of 2,100, but no more.

He said: “We have had discussions with headteachers of all four Uttlesford secondary schools, ­considering the impact new housing will have on school places.

“We are looking at the expansion of Saffron Walden County High School and possibly Newport Free Grammar School.”

Nearly one in five pupils in Years 7-11 at the County High live outside the school’s priority admission area, according to ECC. At Newport, the figure rises to almost two-thirds.

“A large portion of children move from the admissions area for Forest Hall School [in Stansted] and Dunmow [Helena Romanes School],” said Mr Keylock.

He said: “Children moving into Saffron Walden [because of new housing] will displace those children and move them back to other areas.”

Forest Hall School is operating at half capacity. Although Helena Romanes is also under capacity, the building of up to 1,350 homes in Dunmow by 2031 means pupil numbers are expected to rise.

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