School places issue in the political spotlight

Conservative county council candidate for Kirkhill in the May 2017 elections, Richard Wearmouth.
Conservative county council candidate for Kirkhill in the May 2017 elections, Richard Wearmouth.

The issue of future school places in Morpeth has once again been debated.

The Morpeth Conservatives group has previously raised concerns about how the influx of children into the town as a result of new housing schemes will be accommodated into the education system.

Further comments have been issued after members saw a post by a resident on the Morpeth Matters Facebook page showing the response to his query after he heard a rumour that children living in the new estates would have to go to schools in the Alnwick and Bedlington areas.

Northumberland County Council deputy chief executive Daljit Lally’s reply to him said parents can appeal if they move ‘in-year’ to a new house and the local school is full.

She adds: ‘If this is not upheld by the Independent Appeals Panel, then it is the duty of the local authority to secure a place for the child in another school – sometimes this involves a child attending a school outside of the school partnership in which they reside.

‘This process applies in the rest of Northumberland and the vast majority of other areas across the United Kingdom.

‘The council and The Three Rivers Learning Trust will be working together to identify what potential measures could be implemented in Morpeth to enable children moving into the town in the shorter term the opportunity to attend their local school’.

Conservative county council candidate for Kirkhill in the May 2017 elections, Richard Wearmouth, said: “After all our work demonstrating the Morpeth school place shortage and given that nearly 3,000 homes have received planning permission in the town, the administration is finally paying some attention to the problem.

“Previously, the Labour-run administration had denied there was a problem.

“Admitting that children moving in to new homes may have to be bussed to other catchment areas will be galling for parents who have paid a premium to buy a house in the Morpeth catchment.

“In light of this information, we ask that the council drops the idea of building an extra 200 homes on the County Hall site, which will only exacerbate the shortfall in school places that we now face.”

County council leader Grant Davey said: “As we have said before, there is capacity in Morpeth schools for children in, or who will move into, the catchment area.

“Because the schools are popular, around a quarter of places are currently being taken up by children who live outside catchment areas, and in the long term it is future out-of-catchment children who could lose out, not those who live in Morpeth.

“At the end of the day we don’t have control over academies’ admissions policies, but we are working with the learning trust to address any shortfall in places for catchment children in the short-term.

“It mustn’t be forgotten that the council proposed a new £50million school development for Morpeth (on the County Hall site), but this wasn’t supported by the learning trust.”