Hucknall primary schools full to capacity creating crisis amongst parents

09-1721-1''Hucknall Hillside Primary and Nursery School.
09-1721-1''Hucknall Hillside Primary and Nursery School.

Hucknall’s primary schools are bursting at the seams as pressure for places reaches crisis point.

All eight of the town’s primaries have reached their capacity since the allocation of places for the September intake have been made.

And not only is there no spare places but waiting lists are in use with the most popular primary having 37 youngsters waiting in line.

Parents are now being forced to travel out of the town as far as Bestwood Village and Eastwood to their authority allocated school after their preferred choice, even those within catchment, not being able to accommodate their child, and in some cases, siblings of those already a pupil.

It’s a disaster that has been predicted not only by the town’s MP Mark Spencer for some years but by the residents of the town and yet Nottinghamshire County Council claim they have been ‘trying to ensure that the area’s capacity is expanded accordingly’.

And with thousands of more houses on the way with the approval of planning for 1,000 homes on the Rolls-Royce site, work already underway on 141 more homes at Broomhill Farm and future plans for Top Wighay and Papplewick Lane, it spells disaster for families across the Dispatch district.

“This is something I have been talking about for years,” said Sherwood MP Mark Spencer. “The district councils of Ashfield and Gedling have given the go-ahead for all these houses on the edge of Hucknall and the county council have been too slow to react - even when the Conservatives were in power at County Hall.

“It’s just not good enough. Families who have been born here now can’t get their children in Hucknall schools and it is unacceptable to expect them to travel to places like Eastwood and Bestwood - not everyone has a car.

“It is an undeliverable system and it needs solving and quick.”

Mr Spencer has been contacted by a number of his constituents about the situation and has set up a meeting with the service director of the council’s education, standards and inclusion department to discuss the matter.

Meanwhile one headteacher faced with unhappy parents is sympathetic but say her hands are tied.

“This is a very unpleasant and very unusual situation which hasn’t happened before,” said Hillside Academy head, Mrs Dot Stenson. “It’s heartbreaking for the families involved who have children already at the school and whose siblings we can’t accommodate.

“It’s also frustrating for the school as these children have been in our nursery for some time and we have invested in them and now they are unable to continue their education here at Hillside.

“We have a large catchment area but this has taken us by surprise,” added Mrs Stenson. “It is good that we are a popular school but we have reached our PAN (published admission number). We simply haven’t got the room for any more pupils and we have to follow the admissions’ policy criteria.

“We are trying to be flexible with those parents affected and allow staggered starting times to enable them to travel to another school but it is all very disappointing.”

Nottinghamshire County Council’s team manager for school place planning Ian Webster said: “The County Council is unable to comment on an individual child’s school application, but it is inevitable that there will be some disappointed families if there are more applications than places available at a particular school. Whilst Hillside Primary School is a relatively large 420-place primary with nursery, it is popular.

“To give parents the best chance of getting a school they want, we encourage parents to make four preferences on their application form.

“Preferences are considered against the individual school’s admission oversubscription criteria. Hillside Primary School is an academy and not a local authority maintained school and, as such, acts as its own admissions authority in terms of the criteria it uses for allocating places at the school and also has responsibility for appeals for school places.

“Where a place can be offered at more than one of the schools listed on an application, the County Council will offer a place at the highest preferred school where a place is available. However, in cases where all preferred schools are oversubscribed, we will make a mandatory offer and this may be at a school that is further away from the home address. This offer reduces the likelihood of any child being left without a school place and does not affect the right to appeal for any school where an application has been refused. Mandatory offers are made at schools that have available places after all on-time preferences have been considered.

“Where an area is projected to have a demand which exceeds the supply of places, we try to ensure that the area’s capacity is expanded accordingly. We are expanding other popular schools in the Hucknall area, including Edgewood and Bestwood Hawthorne, in time for September this year. Beardall Street Primary is being replaced with a brand new building and doubling in size, again to respond to growing demand for places.

“We are currently in the process of analysing the next pupil projections data for September 2015 admissions which will allow us to more accurately assess where additional places will be required from next year. We cannot base where places are required from the very high level county-wide totals, so we examine very carefully how trends develop in local areas. From this, we can identify quite specifically which schools need to be expanded in order to meet demand in the localities that have greatest pressure on places.

“As with other academies, if Hillside is minded to increase the number of places it offers, it is also free to apply to the Government’s Education Funding Agency directly for funding to expand.”