11:30am Thursday 26th April 2012
Parents have been tearing open letters this week to find which primary school will have space for their children.
Mums and dads of youngsters who will be starting primary school for the first time in September have been sent letters detailing where there will be a place for their child.
The council has a legal obligation to ensure a school place is available for every child of compulsory school age who lives in Cornwall. Parents can specify a preference for up to three schools in their application for a reception place.
This year the council received almost 5,000 on-time reception place applications by the January deadline and 400 late applications. There are over 6,000 reception places available in schools across Cornwall.
While there are enough school places to provide a place for every child, the council says that the demand for places is not evenly spread across Cornwall and there are areas of pressure, both at individual schools and across some towns, where demand for places exceeds the capacity of the schools.
This means that the authority cannot guarantee to offer every parent their first preference school for their child.
The council says that where this is the case parents will be allocated their second or third preference school, or the nearest school to their home which has available places.
Last year 93.1 per cent of parents were allocated a place for their child at their first preference school and 96.1 per cent were allocated a place at their first or second preference school.
Although figures for this year’s applications are not yet available, the council says the numbers will “be in line with previous years”.
However schools are facing “imminent severe and unsustainable pressure” in urban areas due to a large growth in population.
With the possibility of a large housebuilding boom due to the council’s housing “Core Strategy” and its associated drive to attract a large amount of inward migration into the county, the council faces a challenge over coming years.
The county also faces the opposite problem in some areas with falling numbers at some rural schools.
David Wood from Cornwall Council, said: “In recent years population growth has been concentrated in the main town areas and this trend is likely to continue”.
“The combination of the major growth identified in the developing Town Framework masterplans and the 48,000 new houses predicted in the emerging Core Strategy could generate demand for an additional 5,330 primary school places in Cornwall over the next twenty years” he added.
“However this level of demand cannot be met by Cornwall’s existing schools infrastructure.”
A reduction in capital funding from the Government has compounded the problem.
“Cornwall has missed out on significant national capital funding allocations in recent years” said Neil Burden, the Council’s portfolio for children’s services.
“Last Autumn the Treasury announced an additional £600 million of capital basic need funding for schools in England, and on 11 April this year the Secretary of State announced the allocation of this funding for local authorities.
“Although several authorities, such as Brent, Waltham Forest, Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, City of Bristol and Newham each received between £20-30 million to provide new school places, we did not receive any additional money as the government felt that the pressure on places in Cornwall was not as severe as other places in the country”.
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