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Croydon Council drops Segas House plan as it outlines how almost 2,000 extra school places will be created over the next three years


ALMOST 2,000 extra school places will be created in Croydon over the next three years as part of the latest efforts to meet growing demand, though several major proposals have been dropped or delayed. 

The plans no longer include opening a school in a prominent town centre office block, after idea was scrapped because of the costs involved.

But they will see, for the second year in a row, schools open in temporary accommodation because their permanent sites will not be ready.

Two primary schools opened in interim classrooms - one in an office block - last September. Building delays connected to the council's major expansion programme also meant 1,500 pupils across the borough started school late

The latest plans to create extra places - due to be approved by the council at a cabinet meeting on Monday – have been revised because demand has not been as high as feared.

Two of the three new schools due to open in September this year - Oasis Fairfield and Heathfield Academy – will do so in temporary arrangements.

Fairfield will be houses in Oasis Shirley Park and Heathfield pupils will be taught in Aberdeen Road, South Croydon, because its building in Spices Yard will not be completed until 2016. Pupils will be provided with free minibus transport to the new location.

A three-form entry school, run by academy group Glyn Learning Foundation, is due to open in St James' Road, Croydon.

West Thornton Academy will expand by two forms of entry under September's plan and Heavers Farm, South Norwood, St John's Primary, Shirley, and Chipstead Valley in Coulsdon, will take "bulge" – or one year group only – classes, which are expected to become permanent expansions in 2016.

The council, however, has dropped plans to open a primary school in Segas House, a vacant office block in the town centre.

Oasis Community Learning, which has academies in Croydon, was selected by the government as the preferred provider for the school in Katharine Street in December 2013. Tim Pollard, then Conservative schools chief and now leader of the opposition, posed for pictures outside the building after the announcement was made.

But, according to this week's cabinet report, the plan has been scrapped because buying the site, which is owned by St George's Walk landlords Minerva, would be too expensive. A report, due to be discussed at Monday's cabinet meeting, says an alternative location in Fiveways, Waddon, will be more "cost-effective" and offers access to green space and sports facilities.

The council will not also proceed with efforts to expand St Joseph's nursery, infant and junior schools in Upper Norwood, which it hoped would ensure sufficient reception places in the north west of the borough.

A consultation process met with "very strong" opposition, including a petition organised by a residents' group and signed by 125 people, which expressed concerns about traffic congestion.

The final decision was delegated to Alisa Flemming, cabinet member for children, families and learning who decided to reject the expansion.

The council plans to create 960 primary school places by 2017/18. 

Demand for places at primary schools across the borough is expected to grow over the next three years but at a slower pace than thought when the estimates were last made in July 2014.

New analysis suggests 11 additional permanent forms of entry will be needed in September, rather than the 17 it was feared could be required. 

The council has also revised its estimates of the extra classes needed in 2016/17 from a worst case scenario of 16 down to 11. A slowing of the increase in birth rates means it is currently thought that only five extra classes will be needed in 2017/18.

Plans to open a free school in September run by the Ark Trust, the organisation behind what was formerly Oval Primary School in Cherry Orchard Road, have been deferred for a year, the report said.

While demand for primary places is slowing, years of school expansions will soon transfer pressure to the borough's secondary schools.

Harris Invictus Academy opened in temporary buildings on the former General Hospital site in London Road last September, creating 180 extra places.

A further 180 will be created this September by the new Oasis Community Learning school at the Arena and, 12 months later, 60 more will be provided through the expansion of Archbishop Lanfranc, now being run by the Coloma Trust.

A secondary free school run by Ark is due to open in September 2016 and the council said it is "aware of a number of high calibre educational providers with serious intention of providing secondary free schools in Croydon".

As a result, it says, it has put on hold other plans to expand local authority secondary schools until it knows more about those applications.

Monday's meeting will also see plans outlined for 106 extra places for children with special educational needs between the ages of four and 11.

In a press release, missing much of the detail of the report it refers to, Cllr Flemming said: "With Croydon set to get even bigger thanks to major regeneration projects, we are planning ahead so our booming borough has enough places school places for every pupil."

The school expansion plan will cost £135.17 million over the next three years, with £32 million per year provided by the Department for Education. The council is to meet the shortfall by borrowing. 

Croydon Council drops Segas House plan as it outlines how almost 2,000 extra school places will be created over the next three years

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