Schools growth budget 'hit by drop in Government funding of £19m'

Windmill Primary headteacher Lynn Knapp. Picture: OX64767 Antony Moore

Windmill Primary headteacher Lynn Knapp. Picture: OX64767 Antony Moore Buy this photo

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Herald Series: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

THE expansion of primary schools, to cope with the growing population of Oxfordshire, could be hit with a “devastating” shortfall of nearly £20m.

And last night council leaders and teachers warned of the damaging impact the funding gap could have on children’s future education.

Yesterday Oxfordshire County Council said money it expected to receive from the Department for Education (DfE) had been cut dramatically from £37.5m between 2013-17, by £12.89m.

And the authority warned the shortfall could rise to around £19.3m up to 2018.

Council bosses said this would consign a generation of Oxfordshire’s primary school children to being taught in temporary classrooms and mean parents would struggle to get their first choice of school.

Council leader Ian Hudspeth said: “We could scale back the building programme and use spare capacity at schools more fully. However, this would create more school transport costs and make it harder for parents to get their children a place at a school of their choice.

“We could also return to the long term use of temporary classroom units.”

Mr Hudspeth said he had not been told the reasons for the reduction, but had contacted Oxfordshire’s MPs to make DfE change its mind. The DfE didn’t respond to the Oxford Mail’s requests for an explanation.

Each year the council submits figures to the DfE showing how many pupils it is expecting and this is used to calculate how much money is needed to fund the expansion of schools.

Last June, there were more than 5,100 children being taught in temporary classrooms across the county and in September, the Oxford Mail reported there was a shortfall of about 1,000 places expected over the next two years, according to the Local Government Association.

The expanding schools programme, set up last year, was estimated at £37.5m over a four-year period and half of this has been provided by the DfE over two years from 2013.

But it has now been revealed that just £3m has been allocated for 2015/16 and 2017/18, as opposed to the £16m the council was expecting.

And a further requirement of £8m had also been identified for 2017/18, meaning a potential shortfall of £19.3m.

Between 2015-18, the county council had identified 20 schools to expand, including Matthew Arnold School in Cumnor Hill.

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said: “Such a shortfall would have a devastating impact on progress towards getting all children in permanent school buildings. It is especially damaging at a time when school places are under such pressure and the crucial drive is on to raise local standards of attainment.”

The council was planning to provide further funding from its own resources and from developer contributions, but Mr Hudspeth said the authority could not plug the gap without affecting other services.

Bob Price, the leader of Oxford City Council, said: “I am very surprised that the DfE has made such a decision because demographic trends show very clearly the expansion of children both at primary and secondary age over the next decade.”

A number of schools are already in the process of expanding, including St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Headington which will raise intake from 45 to 60. The council said they should not be affected by the shortfall.

Windmill Primary school in Headington is due to start its expansion project in May, with building starting in August.

Headteacher Lynn Knapp said it could impact on the number of schools becoming academies – where funding for building projects could be raised outside of the county council.

She said: “It may be that there is a greater push for that. It means the county council would have less implications in terms of funding.”

  • GCSE results are to be released this week. For a full breakdown of schools, see Thursday’s Oxford Mail.

SCHOOLS expanded in 2013/14.

  • New Marston Primary School, Oxford
  • Orchard Meadow Primary School, Oxford
  • Cholsey Primary School
  • Badgemoor Primary School, Henley
  • New Hinksey CofE Primary School, Oxford
  • Botley CofE Primary School
  • Woodstock CofE Primary School
  • Five Acres Primary School, Ambrosden
  • St Gregory the Great Catholic School, Oxford

SCHOOLS approved for 2014/15.

  • Cutteslowe Primary School, Oxford
  • MacIntyre Academies, Oxford
  • St Gregory the Great Catholic School, Oxford
  • St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Oxford

Other schools are scheduled for the next financial year but have yet to be given final approval. They are:

  • Bletchingdon Parochial CofE School
  • Cutteslowe Primary School, Oxford
  • Larkrise Primary School, Oxford
  • St Christopher’s CofE Primary School, Oxford
  • Windmill Primary School, Oxford
  • Wolvercote Primary School, Oxford
  • Woodstock CofE Primary School
  • Frank Wise School, Banbury
  • Fir Tree Junior School, Wallingford
  • Hill View Primary School, Banbury
  • Watchfield Primary School
  • St Gregory the Great Catholic School, Oxford
  • St Ebbe’s CofE Primary School
  • St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Oxford

THE schools set to expand between 2015-18

  • Charlton Primary School, Wantage
  • Deddington CofE Primary School
  • Queensway Primary School, Banbury
  • William Fletcher Primary School, Yarnton
  • St Francis CofE Primary School, Oxford
  • Harriers Banbury Academy
  • Caldecott Primary School, Abingdon
  • St Swithun’s CofE Primary School, Kennington
  • John Watson Special School, Wheatley
  • Mabel Pritchard Special School, Oxford
  • Hill View Primary School, Banbury
  • Matthew Arnold School, Cumnor Hill
  • Hanwell Fields Community School, Banbury
  • Hook Norton Primary School
  • Marcham Primary School
  • John Hampden Primary School, Thame
  • St Michael’s CofE Primary School, Steventon
  • Longfields Primary School and Nursery, Bicester
  • Grove CofE Primary School
  • Faringdon Infant School and Junior School

Some schools may be in more than one list because the schemes are ususally done in phases falling into different financial years

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