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Schools struggle to meet demand as population soars
COUNCILS are still struggling to meet rising demand for primary school places, despite their efforts to create hundreds of extra spaces.
Both Bournemouth and Poole have already expanded local primary schools to cater for hundreds of extra pupils over the past few years.
But many schools are still full or near capacity and both councils believe they will have to continue creating new places for at least the next three years.
The pressure is then set to move on to secondary schools, providing a fresh headache for school place planners.
Nationally, the National Audit Office is warning that 250,000 new school places are needed in England by autumn 2014 to meet rising demand.
The demand has been driven by the birth rate rising more quickly than at any time since the 1950s.
The number of reception class places in Bournemouth has been increased from 1,740 in September 2010 to 2,070 in September 2013 and it is forecast that a further 1,050 primary school places, including 150 reception places, will be needed between 2014 and 2016.
There are currently just 93 reception spaces across the entire borough, all of which are concentrated in just three schools – Elmrise, Kingsleigh and Heathlands.
Neil Goddard, service director, community learning and commissioning, said: “Bournemouth, like many other councils across England, is faced with the challenge of providing a large number of additional primary school places over the next few years.
“This is due to a significant increase in the numbers of children being born and living in Bournemouth.
“This increased pressure on primary school places looks set to continue until at least 2016.”
The Borough of Poole started creating additional reception spaces in September 2011.
By September 2014, it will have created an extra 330 places for four- and five-year-olds.
The council also has plans to create additional year three places between September 2015 and September 2017.
Dorset County Council said they were starting to see a rise in population after years of declining primary pupil numbers.
Schools in Bridport and Dorchester will be expanded in September 2013 and other schools have been approached to make sure they could expand if necessary.