County Council moves to tackle school places issue

TWO Woking schools are being expanded to help county chiefs cope with the rising demand for places.

Bishop David Brown School is set for an extension from September 2016 under proposals signed off by Surrey County Council’s Cabinet last week.

CLASS ACT – Bishop David Brown (above) and Westfield Primary Schools are to be extended under county council plans
CLASS ACT – Bishop David Brown (above) and Westfield Primary Schools are to be extended under county council plans

The Sheerwater-
based secondary school building will be remodelled and extended to create 150 extra places.

Also bolstering its roster is Westfield Primary School, which will make room for another 90 pupils by September under the plans. A further proposal to add 120 places will come into play at a later date.

The decision follows the expansion of several primary schools in the area to cope with rising birth rates, which have soared 37 per cent in the decade from 2002. It means Surrey County Council will have spent £14.8 million in just three years, creating 1,260 extra primary places in Woking.

This is the equivalent of 42 extra classrooms or three new whole primary schools.

Surrey County Council Cabinet Member for Schools, Skills and Educational Achievement, Linda Kemeny, said that it is becoming increasingly difficult to finance the extra places.

She explained: “Rising demand for school places is beginning to be felt at secondary level and we need to act now to ensure all Surrey children wanting a secondary school place in future will have one.

“We need to find 13,000 extra places across our school system over the next five years but we’re facing a funding shortfall to meet this unprecedented demand – at a time when our budgets are also under strain from the rising number of older people needing care.”

BDB Headteacher Stuart Shepherd told the News & Mail that discussions had been ongoing since 2013: “We’ve been talking to the county council for two years. We’re very pleased with the announcement, as a lot of work has been undertaken over the years to improve the school – parents want Bishop David Brown as a first choice.”

A 12-month remodelling plan will see the creation of two new classrooms, two IT rooms and three science labs, while six existing classrooms will be expanded to cater for the new intake.

Eventually the school will become home to a total of 900 secondary students. Mr Shepherd added: “We have work to do now to ensure the necessary facilities are in place. It has been a
long journey and we are very excited about it.”

Elsewhere in the county, plans were signed off to expand St Ann’s Heath Junior in Virginia Water and Hinchley Wood Primary in Esher.

Proposals were also approved to rebuild Cranleigh Church of England Primary on unused land in the grounds of the nearby Glebelands Secondary School, with the possibility of expanding the new building in future, if necessary.

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