Wimbledon Childen Still Awaiting Local School

Some youngsters need to live within 200 yards of a school

Nearly 100 Wimbledon children will have to travel two or three miles to a primary school in Mitcham or Morden, claim Conservatives who believe a new school should have been built.

Merton council received 2,545 applications for primary school places this year and initially offered 79.7% (2,029) of parents their first preference for their child.

But the shortage of places in Wimbledon has been an on-going issue, with some pupils needing to live within 200 yards of a school to get a place.

Several initiatives have added some extra places in the area and talks are ongoing with a Wimbledon school about creating a 'bulge class' for next year.

The governors of Dundonald School have recently given approval to borough plans for an additional reception year class to open at the school. But opposition councillors claim this still leaves 91 children without a place at a local school.

The extra class at Dundonald will be accommodated in the existing school building, but the council agrees with the school governors that the extra class does not presume permanent expansion will follow.

There will be a detailed consultation starting in early May over a scheme which will include the ageing "temporary" park pavilion being replaced by modern pavilion facilities and the extra space for Dundonald to be a two-form entry school.

Merton Council cabinet member Councillor Peter Walker (left) has released a map showing how close some pupils need to live to a school to get a place.

He said: "It shows how near to some schools parents need to live to gain admission for their child. Some schools like Bishop Gilpin, Dundonald and Merton Park mean that parents living more than 200 yards from the school gate are unlikely to get a place for their child as they are outside the admission zone. Large areas of central Wimbledon are at present outside these zones.

"This is a direct result of the 30% growth in the numbers of young children coming into our schools. It is for this reason that I am delighted for example that Dundonald governors recently agreed to admit a bulge class this September. At present we are actively talking to at least one other school in Wimbledon about doing the same thing.

"We are confident that we can create additional spaces in primary schools which will be confirmed in time for the second round of offers now expected to take place week ending 13 May.

"The plan of the previous Conservative Council to build a new school on land we did not own and for which no planning permission existed, was a dangerous and foolish plan".

But Richard Hilton, Conservative Education spokesman, said: "According to the letter Councillor Walker sent to all Councillors last month, there are 121 children without places. While I welcome the additional 30 places the expansion of Dundonald Primary School offers, what happens to the remaining 91 children?

"We simply cannot have a situation where children as young as 4 or 5 years old are travelling 2 or 3 miles to Mitcham or to Morden to get to school.

"It is time that Labour admit they have got it wrong on the need for a new school, as the Conservatives proposed last year, listens to the majority feedback to their own consultation exercise and moves forward plans for a new school at Gap Road immediately".

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April 21, 2011