SERIOUS concerns have been raised over a lack of forward planning between local planning and education authorities over school places for families in new homes on the Coventry and Warwickshire border.
A surge in demand for already over-subscribed school places at Finham Park School, Finham Park 2, Kenilworth School and Heart of England School in Balsall Common is likely to intensify further with new housing developments proposed in Westwood Heath, King’s Hill and Eastern Green, say members of Burton Green Parish Council and Keep Our Greenbelt Green (KOGG) campaigners.
The potential seriousness of the situation came to light recently in Burton Green when two 11-year-old pupils were denied places at Kenilworth School even though housing developer Cala – as part of its planning permission for 90 new homes in Burton Green – had been required to pay £347,319 towards the cost of a new-build school in nearby Kenilworth.
Burton Green Parish Council was shocked by the news and took up the matter with Warwickshire County Council, the education authority. The children’s parents were advised to appeal with the result that places at Kenilworth School were finally offered.
But this case is only the tip of the iceberg of the problem say councillors – as it will be another two or three years before the new, larger school is completed in Kenilworth. By then the demand for school places will significantly increase because planning permission has also been given for more new homes closer to the new school.
The emerging mismatch between new builds and school places has been further highlighted in Burton Green, where Warwick District Council’s Local Plan has removed land south of Westwood Heath Road from the green belt – because it was claimed there was not enough suitable land within Coventry – to allow 425 new homes to be built.
Detailed planning permission has already been given for 129 homes on site and work is expected to start by Crest Nicholson within a few months.
But there are no schools planned as part of this development and, under Warwick District Council’s plan, pupils will have to attend primary and secondary schools at a new, as yet unbuilt school, four miles away at the controversial 2,500-home development at Kings Hill – but where planning consent has not yet been finalised, and no start date is known.
Alan Marshall, deputy chairman of Burton Green Parish Council said: “Even when work does start, the planners say a new primary school will not open until 300-400 homes have been completed. As for the secondary school, construction will not even begin until 800 homes have been built – and there is no number of completions specified for when the secondary school should open.
“So there is going to be a huge mismatch between demand for school places from Westwood Heath and places becoming available at new schools four miles away at Kings Hill.
“An added problem in the Burton Green area, and in the Eastern Green area of Coventry, is that at present children are also allowed to attend Heart of England secondary school in Balsall Common in the Metropolitan Borough of Solihull – but that school is going to have to cope with children from many hundreds of new homes to be built at Balsall Common under Solihull’s latest Local Plan.”
Peter Maddock, spokesman for Keep Our Greenbelt Green (KOGG) in Coventry said: “There has been a lack of real planning between planning and education departments. With up to 2,400 homes planned on former green belt land at Eastern Green a lot of school places will be needed.”
A Coventry City Council spokesperson said: “Coventry City Council produce annual school forecasts, on the anticipated pupil numbers, for each primary and secondary school within the city.
“These forecasts include anticipated additional pupils generated from all approved planning applications and the strategic sites included within the Coventry local plan.
“These forecasts allow for Coventry City Council to facilitate additional school places and plan effectively for new housing developments and any changes to the birth rate from existing housing stock.
Coventry City Council share these forecasts with neighbouring authorities including Solihull and Warwickshire to understand cross border movement of Coventry residents choosing to attending other local authority schools.”
The Observer also contacted Warwick District Council and Warwickshire County Council and are awaiting comment.
A spokesperson for Kenilworth School said as it was an Academy, responsibility for setting the admission arrangements sat with the Academy Trust as the Admissions Authority.
“This includes setting the admission number for each year of entry.
“Under the Admissions Code, Admissions Authorities are also entitled to admit further children above the published admission number.
“All places at Kenilworth School were allocated in line with the Academy’s published admission arrangements for September 2021 entry.
“Unfortunately, on national offer day it was not possible to offer all children that had applied on time and are living within the school’s priority area a place at Kenilworth School.
“For Kenilworth School this meant a small number of children, including some resident in the Burton Green area, that had applied on time remained on the waiting list on offer day and were offered a place at another local school, either by meeting another preference on their application or providing an unplaced offer at the next nearest school with space.”
Guidance on home to school transport options, including how to apply and eligibility for free transport, are available online at: www.warwickshire.gov.uk/schooltransport
“Kenilworth School Academy Trust is currently leading on the relocation and expansion of the existing Kenilworth School.
“This project will deliver additional secondary school places to accommodate expected growth in secondary pupil numbers as a result of approved and proposed housing development in the Kenilworth area, prior to the opening of a proposed new secondary school as part of the Kings Hill housing Development on the Warwickshire / Coventry border.”