Lewisham Council accused of keeping primary school place shortage 'under wraps'

News Shopper: Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock visiting modular classrooms in Sandhurst Primary School, Catford, in 2010 Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock visiting modular classrooms in Sandhurst Primary School, Catford, in 2010

LEWISHAM Council is accused of keeping a shortage of primary school places "under wraps" with five schools being expanded in an "emergency" move.

Fairlawn, Kilmorie, St Winifred’s, St Joseph’s and Haseltine primary schools will all deploy so-called "bulge" classrooms to cope with an ongoing problem of a rising birth rate across the capital.

But several Lib Dem opposition councillors say parents were told about the plans "last minute", including Fairlawn School where a letter informing them of the proposals was sent out on July 17.

Vice-chairwoman of the children and young people select committee, Lib Dem Cllr Jenni Clutten said: "This problem seems to have been kept under wraps by the leadership of the council and sprung on school governors and elected councillors at the last minute.

"This is an extremely stressful time for hundreds of parents and they deserve answers."

The council says it has planned effectively for an extra 365 primary school places needed for this September with 76.8 per cent gaining their top choice, 86 per cent offered their first or second preference and 93.7 per cent receiving one of their six choices.

While 235 children, or 6.3 per cent, were unsuccessful in getting one of their preferences and were given a place at the closest school with a vacancy.

It comes after a council botch-up where students offered places at top New Cross school Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College were later turned away in April after an administrative error.

Lib Dem councillor Cllr Duwayne Brooks said: "It is outrageous that something like that has been allowed to happen so shortly after the Haberdashers' Aske's fiasco.

"This demonstrates a lack of leadership and forward planning on behalf of the council's admissions team and the cabinet member responsible."

Lewisham Council cabinet member for children and young people Cllr Helen Klier said: "Every child who applied for a place to start at a Lewisham school in September 2013 has been offered one.

"The figures are all an improvement on the previous year.

"Like many other London boroughs, Lewisham has over recent years seen a huge rise in the demand for reception class places and this is set to continue.

"Each year we have responded to this challenge through detailed and effective planning and created extra primary places to ensure there was a place in a Lewisham school for every child.

"We have created 365 extra primary Reception places for September 2013 which we believe to be sufficient to meet demand for this new school year, including late applications."

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