Parties Get Together On Merton School Expansion

Planning to find new primary places

There will be cross-party talks in Merton to plan the urgent need for more school places in the borough.

The announcement came at a recent council meeting in which moves to expand a number of primary schools were discussed.

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.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) says 3,521 children were born in the borough in 2010 - a 39% increase from 2002.

The council meeting on Wednesday (September 14) also voted on a motion from the Conservatives to build a new school in Merton. But this was rejected.

But all four party leaders agreed to sit down together with the council's education officers to explore how best to tackle the shortage of places.

Councillor Peter Walker (left), Cabinet member for Education, said: "I am delighted to announce that my suggestion for all four parties to sit down with officers in the Education department and explore how we are going to meet the need for new school places has been agreed to.”

"The initiative breaks new ground for the borough by ensuring that the views from all sides of the council are harnessed to address the difficult issue of the unprecedented rise in children needing education in the borough."

He also said it would have been "foolish" to embark on building a new primary school before all four parties (Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Merton Park Ward Independent Residents) had met.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Leader Iain Dysart (left) said he welcomed the committment to set out a five-year strategy for primary and secondary places.

In a Letter to the Editor, he said: "What we need is some fresh thinking: we must protect existing school sites – not sell them off. Our good schools must be kept a good size – you can’t just keep increasing existing schools forever. And perhaps most importantly we must plan for the future; we need to be thinking now about future developments – will we need even more primary schools, what about more secondary schools?

"We don't just need warm words - we need a plan, and action."

Meanwhile, following a two-hour long meeting of the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Panel on Thursday (September 15), controversial plans to expand Dundonald Primary School will move forward for the Cabinet to debate on Monday (September 19).

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September 16, 2011