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Birmingham schools face accommodation crisis as pupil numbers exceed classroom spaces

Birmingham schools face accommodation crisis as pupil numbers exceed classroom spaces

🕔23.Sep 2013

Birmingham schools are facing an acute shortage of classroom space as the city’s population growth continues to soar.

Despite providing almost 11,000 new places and expanding 36 schools since 2010, education officials admit they are struggling to find room for this month’s new primary intake and for youngsters who have moved on to secondary school.

The accommodation crisis is so severe that head teachers in the worst affected areas have been asked to adopt a “creative approach” to finding extra room in their schools with immediate effect.

The problem, described as “unprecedented” by the city council, has been made more acute by increased demand for special school places.

Almost 40,000 children in Birmingham are classified as having special needs, and the figure is growing year by year. About 5,000 attend special schools, but the remainder are educated in mainstream schools where classroom space is at a premium.

All primary school heads have received a letter from council service director for education and commissioning, Sally Taylor, warning that for the first time in many years more children are coming in to Birmingham primary schools than are leaving.

Ms Taylor warned: “Programme requirements to meet the increased demand expected in the secondary sector are being finalised ready to share with schools in October 2013. While in most parts of the city this growth will not have an impact until 2015 or beyond, in some parts we are at the lowest point in the demand curve for year seven places.

“There are hot spots of pressure for secondary school places that may require increased capacity sooner.

“Despite the success of strategically planned investment in primary provision, Birmingham City Council continues to face a number of challenges to ensure that we have sufficient school places.”

The letter continues: “In mainstream primary provision Birmingham City Council faces a new challenge to develop capacity to accommodate infant cohorts that are growing at the rate of eight to 12 forms of entry per year. This challenge has to be met within diminished capital funding and there is therefore a strong impetus to make the very best use of existing space within the school estate.”

The council’s education and skills infrastructure team is working on fresh forecasts for school places demand based on the latest census information. And heads have been warned they face difficult decisions over how to create additional classroom space in their schools.

Ms Taylor added: “The team is looking to work in partnership with the wide range of education providers in the city to respond to the increased demand. This is particularly challenging as children are arriving during the year and a creative approach will be required to resolve this issue.

“As a result of unprecedented increase in net migration, Birmingham City Council faces a specific immediate shortfall of primary place provision in some areas for 2013-14. Consequently, the education infrastructure team will be approaching a number of schools in hotspot areas to assist in increasing the city’s capacity with immediate effect.

“BCC appreciates the additional strain that this could place on school colleagues who are already working extremely hard to deliver the highest quality provision, often in challenging circumstances.”

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