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School bosses resist pressure to expand

Malvern Editorial 12th Nov, 2014 Updated: 20th Oct, 2016

BOSSES at a primary school have ruled out expanding their grounds despite requests from Worcestershire County Council to take in 50 per cent more students.

The council has called on schools in North Malvern to increase its admission numbers because there will be a shortfall of places by September 2016 due to the amount of proposed housing development.

As a result the authority needs to create up to 40 places by that time and proposed Somers Park Primary increase its year size from 60 to 90 pupils, Leigh and Bransford Primary potentially double their admission of 15 up to 30 and Northleigh Primary take 60 students instead of 45.

All three schools would have to be physically expanded to accommodate the increases.

Another option could see Callow End Primary take an extra three pupils although county bosses feel this would only require ‘minor modifications’ and not substantial development.

Despite the move Stuart Sewell, headteacher at Somers Park, has reassured parents the school would not be getting any larger.

He said: “The directors and senior leadership team at Somers Park will not consent to a rise in pupil numbers on the current school site.

“This was last resisted six years ago when Somers Park was an authority school.

“As an academy, we have autonomy over our site. We believe the size of our site makes excellent, ideal provision for our current pupils.”

“Equally, we are aware of highway access for the community and that expansion is therefore not an option.”

However he confirmed the school would be willing to help meet pupil need in the area in other ways, including acting as a partner to a new primary school at Malvern Vale, opening an early years facility on the estate or converting an historic building in the area into a new partnership academy or free school.

A new school at Malvern Vale was part of the original agreement when planning consent was given to build the estate but Worcestershire County Council did not confirm whether they would back the development when questioned by the Observer.

A spokeswoman said: “No decisions have been made yet, the proposals did not include anything to do with a new school at Malvern Vale but it may come through the upcoming meetings that people will say ‘why are we expanding this school when it’s possible to build another one?'”

Malvern MP Harriett Baldwin has also waded into the matter by calling on the council to produce a detailed strategy in line with the South Worcestershire Development Plan.

She said: “The South Worcestershire Development Plan is ambitious for new homes in our local area. Many of these will be family homes and we can expect to see the need for more school places.

“I am glad that the county council is planning ahead for Malvern but it may be that a broader piece of work is needed to ensure developers are required to make a fair contribution to the cost of the new school buildings.

“It may also be worth looking at some of the existing school buildings which were mothballed by the county in recent years.

“Malvern is a wonderful place to live and bring up a family and it is great that the County is planning ahead so carefully with our local primaries to ensure that it always will be.”

The proposals will be discussed at Somers Park at 6pm on Monday (November 17), at 6pm at Northleigh on Tuesday (November 18) and at 5pm on Tuesday, November 25 at Leigh and Bransford Primary School.

Parents can visit www.worcestershire.gov.uk/schoolconsultations to express their views until December 13.

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