More primary school places made available in Saffron Walden

PUBLISHED: 17:16 28 January 2015 | UPDATED: 17:16 28 January 2015

Pupils at RA Butler get busy decorating last Christmas.

Pupils at RA Butler get busy decorating last Christmas.

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Hundreds of primary school places will be made available to meet growing demand in Saffron Walden - but headteachers insist classroom sizes will not increase.

Hundreds of primary school places will be made available to meet growing demand in Saffron Walden – but headteachers insist classroom sizes will not increase.

Two of the town’s largest primary schools will be expanding following talks with Essex County Council (ECC), with 15 children set to join reception at RA Butler Academy this September.

This will increase the reception year from 75 to 90, and gradually expand the school over the next seven years by more than 100 pupils.

Katherine Semar Infant School, on Ross Close, will offer an additional 30 places at reception in 2017.

One parent, Andrew Webb, whose daughter is in Year 1 at RA Butler, told the Reporter: “I think it’s a fantastic school, and its willingness to create an extra reception class to deal with the demand for places so that young children don’t have to be bussed out of town is to be commended.

“Other schools too, may have to do the same. But this can’t go on for ever. This is a ‘canary in the mine’ warning from our town’s schools to the council and Local Education Authority to get a move on and address the issue that many have already called for, the need for a new primary,, and probably secondary. too, school in the town.”

Land for a primary school has been allocated as part of a 200-home scheme between Thaxted Road and Radwinter Road, which was approved at the outline stage in April last year.

Executive headteacher at RA Butler, Ms Linda Chesworth said: “We are aware of the shortage of primary school places in Saffron Walden and have been happy to be in discussions with Essex County Council around the possibility of expansion at RA Butler.

“We consulted with our parents on the subject last year and see this as a great opportunity for the school.”

Currently at RA Butler there are 75 pupils in reception in three groups of 25, so there is capacity for the extra 15 places to be taken up in September.

The intake of new pupils also means that the mixed age forms currently in place from Years One to Six will be phased out.

Cllr Ray Gooding, ECC cabinet member for education, said: “What’s happening is that the biggest pressure for new places is at reception age, and obviously we need to take that on through the school. There’s significant pressure right across South East England on primary school places.

“In Essex we get one or two hotspots, one of those is Colchester. It isn’t quite as bad in Saffron Walden, but there is some pressure there on places over the next few years.”

He added: “Across Essex in the next year we are spending £211m on school building programmes and creating 3,000 places.”

A spokesman for RA Butler said the school anticipated “gradual refurbishment of existing facilities with minimal disruption to children, staff and parents”.

Katherine Semar also said it was in discussions with ECC about possible expansion in the future.

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