Race for places as Derby's primary schools burst at seams
A RACE against time is under way to find enough places for Derby's primary school children and stop parents having to drive youngsters miles across the city to their studies.
Some schools have been asked to double their usual intake of five-year-olds in September. Officials say an overcrowding crisis gripping the schools is set to be worse than last year, when 500 more children applied for primary places than was expected.
Places this year are still over-subscribed, despite 11 schools having already had approval for expansion by the council last year.
Officials say one of the most over-subscribed areas of the city is Normanton, following the influx of a large number of Eastern European immigrants, and this is spilling over into nearby Sinfin.
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They are urging parents to make sure they submit their applications for primary school places by the deadline of midnight on Tuesday or risk being at the back of the queue for places when they are allocated in May.
Councillor Martin Rawson, city council cabinet member for children and young people, said: "It is likely that the pressure for school places that we experienced in 2012 will continue for September 2013.
"I hope it won't happen that children are given places miles from their home and we will certainly do everything we can to ensure that it doesn't happen.
"Projections are showing an increasing trend and so we are closely monitoring the number of applications received, against the number of places available.
"We will consider expansions at schools to ensure all children can be accommodated, as necessary. This will be in close consultation with schools.
"We urge parents to ensure they submit their application by the deadlines as applying after this deadline may reduce the chances of getting a place at a preferred school. Late applications must be considered after all on-time applications."
The schools where work has begun after money was previously set aside to expand places are; Arboretum Primary, Holmefields Primary and Lakeside Primary, as well as Ashgate Primary, Beaufort Primary, Firs Estate Primary, Markeaton Primary, Osmaston Primary, Roe Farm Primary, Silverhill Primary and St Mary's Catholic Primary.
But a lack of funding for further work could affect the ability of some schools to take on more pupils.
One head teacher, who did not wish to be named, said: "Many schools will be unwilling to expand their numbers if they don't have decent accommodation for the extra pupils.
"The council might not find it so easy to persuade schools to take extra pupils on to their books."
Mr Rawson is also concerned about the future knock-on effect of the increased number of pupils in primary schools when they feed through into the secondary sector.
He said: "This a worrying situation as there is no extra money for secondary expansion following the Government's cancellation of the Building Schools for the Future project in 2010, which would have rebuilt or refurbished all of the city's secondary schools."