Croydon Council is consulting on proposals to establish three new primary schools, two in my constituency, opening in September. They are:
- a three form of entry school at Segas House at the junction of Katharine Street and Wellesley Road;
- a two form of entry school at Spices Yard off Aberdeen Road; and
- a three form of entry school at the Westways Centre on St James Road (which is just over the border in Croydon North).
Providing sufficient school places is one of the greatest challenges facing the borough. The last Government significantly increased the number of people coming to this country each year without making any provision for the inevitable resulting increase in the birthrate. This disproportionately affects London, where many new arrivals settle, and particularly outer London boroughs like Croydon because rising property prices in central London have forced many families to move further out.
We are going to need a huge number of extra places over the next few years. I have been lobbying hard to ensure the Council gets the funding it needs to provide these places and with considerable success - we will get over £100 million over the next couple of years, more than any other council in the country.
It's good to see the Council setting out how it will use some of this money. At this stage, there are no detailed proposals - the Council is required to seek people's views as to whether these are the right locations in principle given the parts of the borough where demand is growing fastest. If people agree, there will be a further opportunity to comment when the Council draws up detailed plans and seeks planning permission.
At first sight, none of these locations fit our perception of what a primary school should look like. The reality, however, is that this perception is going to have to change as our population continues to grow (unless we are prepared to build over our remaining green spaces). Instead, the Council is going to have to come up with some innovative designs to ensure that the pupils at these schools have somewhere to play and parents can drop them off and pick them up safely. While these sites aren't ideal, there aren't any better alternatives and we must make sure that there are school places for all our children close to where they live.
You can download the proposals from Croydon Council's website.