Rutland County Council could part-fund new primary school in Oakham

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Rutland County Council will consider part-funding a new primary school in Oakham to create more pupil places in the county.

The council approved a consultation process in March 2015 for a new primary school and this led to a request for the council to support a new 210-place primary school at the Catmose campus site.

And on Monday at a full council meeting, county councillors agreed to support the Barleythorpe Primary Free School Bid as part of its long-term planning work to ensure there are enough school places in Rutland to meet future demand.

Councillors approved a number of recommendations around pupil place planning at the meeting, including, in principle, allocating basic needs funding to support the creation of a new free school to serve the Oakham area.

The council is legally obliged to make sure there are sufficient school places but has no direct control over supplying the places - this is down to schools themselves.

A final decision will be subject to further discussion and a number of conditions.

Councillor David Wilby, portfolio holder for education at Rutland County Council, said: “We currently have enough capacity across the county but parental choice is restricted in Oakham and Uppingham and a complicated and expensive transport network would be required to utilise some of our outlying schools with spare capacity.

“As our own county requirements expand, we will also need to consider and limit the impact of large numbers of pupils attending Rutland schools from neighbouring areas.

“We have been planning for some time to try and predict where and when demand for pupil places will exceed the supply. After considering several options, building a new future-proof primary school in Oakham remains our best long-term solution to meet the education needs of Rutland children.

“The council is now considering what level of support it can give the Barleythorpe free school bid, with a final decision subject to several conditions, including the school’s own financial contribution, timing and the number of additional places required.”

But not everyone was happy with the decision.

Coun Alan Walters, who leads the independent group on the council, spoke out against the location of the new school at the Catmose site. His concerns include that young people would be staying on one site from the age of three to 19, the potential design of the building and worries that the new school would impact on parental choice.

He added: “We hope that the new primary, if it is built, will be totally inclusive, will have no element of selection based on ability, and will aim to achieve zero permanent exclusions when in operation.”

Last year, the council allocated £400,000 to help existing primary schools expand to meet short-term demand for places. Since then, both Brooke Hill Primary and English Martyrs Primary have expanded.

Councillors at Monday’s meeting agreed that officers and the portfolio holder for education should continue to work with Rutland schools, trusts and federations to review the impact of out of county pupils on local schools.

Coun Wilby added that it was important to plan ahead and work closely with schools to “anticipate and meet the needs of local families”.

Members at Monday’s meeting also agreed that, starting in 2017, an annual report will set out how the council plans to provide sufficient schools places in Rutland based on a 15 year projection.

There will also be further analysis of special educational needs provision across the county, a review of the impact of MOD developments on schools and a review of the provision of secondary capacity in Oakham.