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Black hole of school places

PUBLISHED: 17:12 02 April 2009 | UPDATED: 16:04 07 September 2010

Headteacher Christine Witham

Headteacher Christine Witham

Robyn Rosen A PRIMARY school will be expanded to cater for the dramatic increase in birth rates in the west of the borough. Plans to extend Rhodes Avenue School in Muswell Hill to allow for three-form entry in 2011 is reaching its last stage of consulta

Robyn Rosen

A PRIMARY school will be expanded to cater for the dramatic increase in birth rates in the west of the borough.

Plans to extend Rhodes Avenue School in Muswell Hill to allow for three-form entry in 2011 is reaching its last stage of consultation.

During a cabinet meeting last Tuesday (March 24), councillors agreed to take forward the recommendations.

A decision is due to be made by the cabinet in June.

The news follows the publication of figures that shows the number of children failing to secure a place in their top four choices has increased by 70 per cent in the last three years.

Cllr Lorna Reith, cabinet member for children and schools, said: "We have had a dramatic increase in the birth rate which means that we are expecting a lot more children to be wanting primary school places.

"This is one bit of the borough where there is already significant pressure on places.

"There will be a need to provide more classrooms and Rhodes Avenue is best placed geographically to do that.

"This is a school that is a good school and is already over subscribed but it does lie geographically in the place where the greatest demand is to come."

Lynne Featherstone, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, said: "The recommendation to finally address the issue is very welcome.

"For too long a school places black hole in Alexandra ward has made parents lives a misery. Hopefully this will mark an end to this shortfall."

But governors at the Rhodes Avenue have expressed concerns that expansion could be detrimental to the school's friendly, community-minded ethos.

Alison Vaughan, chairwoman of the governors, said: "The governing body has accepted the recommendation to proceed to statutory consultation on three-form entry.

"It does have reservations about how expansion may compromise some of the school's strengths and will work closely with the designers and local authority to minimise any adverse effects that a larger school may have on the current ethos and strong community spirit."

Cllr Reith added: "We would share that desire of theirs in keeping that ethos in the school. I don't think expanding the school should undermine that.

"They would want to be involved in consultation and obviously we would include them in that process and take their advice."

This year, 142 children were not accepted to any of their top four primary schools, figures released by the council show.

The demand for school places in the Alexandra, Fortis Green and Muswell Hill areas are higher than any other part of the borough, where births have increased by almost 30 per cent in 10 years.

Gail Engert, Muswell Hill councillor and Lib Dem children and schools spokeswoman, said: "These new figures show that the problem for local families is only getting worse. Up to 142 families will have to send their children to a school that is not any of their choices. In Alexandra ward, only now are we seeing action from the council when this was needed two or more years ago."

There will be two public meetings in the school hall on Monday May 11 at 7pm and Friday May 15 at 3.30pm.


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