Grant For Extra Merton School Places

Cash boost welcomed by local politicians

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A Government grant of £5.8 million towards Merton's school places crisis has been welcomed by local politicians.

Eighteen schools in the borough have already provided additional classes to help meet demand, as the birth rate in Merton is rising faster than anywhere in south west London.

Demand is especially keen in Wimbledon and plans to expand Dundonald Primary School into the neighbouring recreation ground are moving forward, despite some local opposition.

The new Government grant, announced by Education Secretary Michael Gove, will probably fund the expansion of one or two schools in the borough.

Councillor Peter Walker, Cabinet member of Education, welcomed the announcement. He said: "With a 39% growth in five-year-olds entering our schools in the last few years we welcome the announcement by the Department for Education to increase our capital grant for school building by £5.8 million. 

"This increase in grant will help meet a small but significant part of our current school building programme. That programme is currently running at around £50 million and rising.

"Merton has for the last few years under both the Conservatives and Labour made the urgent case for Government help. This grant shows they are beginning to recognise the pressure we are under, if we are to meet our legal and moral duty to educate children in decent buildings."

But he added: "Each expansion of a primary school costs on around £4m-£6m.  In the next three years it is likely we will need to expand another 6 to eight primary schools.  While I welcome this increase in grant, we need to put it in context as it will probably only fund the expansion of one of two of the 16-18 being planned."

Councillor Richard Hilton, Conservative Education Spokesman said: "I am pleased to see that this Government clearly recognises the urgent need for more local school places for families here in Merton.

"Michael Gove's decision to allocate almost £6 million of extra funding to our borough for this purpose follows consistent lobbying of both this and the previous Government by Conservative councillors together with our local MP, Stephen Hammond. 

“I only hope that the Labour administration in Merton will now think again and bring forward the long term strategy for dealing with the growing demand for primary and secondary school places that we have called for, including immediate plans to build a new primary school in Wimbledon.

"Unfortunately so far, Labour and the other parties have all rejected a new school showing their complete lack of ambition and short-sightedness to the school places issue in Merton."

November 7, 2011