School expansion has paid off says Crouch End headteacher
Parents across north London are struggling to find a primary school place for their child as rising birth rates put a squeeze on places. Education Reporter Kate Ferguson speaks to Coleridge Primary School headteacher Shirley Boffey and asks why her school became one of the first in London to expand to four forms.
The head of Coleridge School in Crouch End had to decide whether to back calls for her highly successful primary to expand or continue to turn away children because there was not the capacity to take them.
She went with the first option and in 2007 the school in Crouch End Hill doubled in size from 480 places to 960.
The expansion took the primary to the size of many secondary schools and was not without controversy.
Some parents worried that the school’s close-knit community could be damaged by the expansion, while others were concerned about the new building’s location, which was across the road from the existing site.
Looking back at the decision, Mrs Boffey is clear that the overriding need for school places trumped other concerns.
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“There was a drastic need for school places in Crouch End that was apparent by the number of parents who were failing to get their children into schools close to where they lived,” she explained.
“I and the governors embraced the chance to expand because we felt it important that parents in Crouch End had the choice of a school within walking distance.
“We were confident that we could retain the intimate nature of the school and being part of a large school would equip the children for moving at the age of 11 to larger comprehensives.
“Whether a school is intimate or not is not dependant on the size but the nature of the relationships in the school and the structures in place.”
Teachers, governors and councils are increasingly aware that if children are to be placed at a primary school within walking distance of home, existing schools will need to expand.
Last week, the Ham&High reported that more than 40 children in north west Camden were without a primary place when the current academic year started in September.
Emmanuel School in Mill Lane, West Hampstead, is in the midst of expanding to create 100 new places to provide some of these children with a classroom.
Yet pressure on places in this area is expected to remain.
As parents continue to choose to move to north London to raise their children, the prospect of more schools needing to expand seems likely.