Classroom crisis

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04 Feb 2011
Head teachers are warning the demand for secondary school places in Sittingbourne is outstripping the number of places available.

Fulston Manor, The Westlands School, Highsted Grammar and Sittingbourne Community College are all oversubscribed.

And the schools are warning parents hoping to get their children in they could be facing disappointment.

The most over-subscribed secondary school in Sittingbourne is Fulston Manor, which has 90 more pupils than it should have.

Borden Grammar School, Avenue of Remembrance, is the
only school which has fewer pupils than it could have on its books.

All five schools’ plans to increase capacity are on hold following news the government’s school rebuilding scheme was being scrapped.

Fulston Manor head teacher Alan Brookes said: "We are 10 to 12 pupils over in every year group and in the sixth form we have no space.

"The plan under the Building Schools for the Future programme was we would go up by an additional 30 students a year for 11- to 16-year-olds and create an extra 150 places over the next five years.

"I think Westlands were going to do the same, so that would have seen an extra 300 places created and that would have had quite an impact.

"There’s new housing going up, people moving in from south London; it’s an expanding area.

"It comes as a huge shock to parents moving into the area when they ring up and ask for a place and we say ‘there’s no chance’ and it’s the same at any of the other schools."

Westlands’ deputy head teacher, Neil Golding, said the school had four times as many mobile classrooms as it did two years ago.

He said: "Every year group is full up and we’ve got a list of parents wanting to get their children into the school.

"It’s not worrying for us but it’s a worry for the community because we cannot meet their needs.

"We’ve had to put in more mobile classrooms.

"We now have eight where as a year or two ago we only had two.

"There comes a point where we can’t take any more as the class sizes start getting bigger and that then affects the standard of education."

Sittingbourne Community College head teacher Alan Barham said: "The college is over-subscribed, and our building spaces are full to capacity.

"For this reason, we are currently renting off-site space in which we can accommodate some of the courses we run."

Highsted head teacher Jennifer Payne declined to comment but did confirm the school was also over-subscribed.

A Kent County Council spokesman said: "The demand for school places changes with demographics, school popularity, and economic circumstances.

"The number of places in any given area is reviewed on a regular basis, in consultation with the schools. Within the Sittingbourne area there is now a mix of local authority secondary schools and academies.

"We will speak to those head teachers to look at the population trends for the coming years and potential options to cater for the expected intake."

By Hayley Robinson
Kent Messenger