More than £4.5million has been allocated by the county council to increase pupil capacity at four schools in Northumberland.
At yesterday’s meeting of the decision-making cabinet, it was agreed to use the money, from the basic need grant, for Chantry Middle School in Morpeth, New Delaval and Horton Grange Primaries in Blyth, and Whytrig Middle in Seaton Valley.
Basic need capital grant is provided by the Department for Education to support growth of school capacity and assist local authorities in fulfilling their duty to ensure there are sufficient school places for children in their local area.
Northumberland’s allocation for 2011 to 2020 is £15.7million.
Of the £6.7million remaining balance, £711,000 has now been earmarked for Chantry Middle School to install one double mobile classroom unit and refurbish other accommodation to increase the capacity of the school by 120 places.
In Blyth, there is £2.06million to extend the existing building at Horton Grange Primary School to increase the capacity by an additional 210 places and £1.05million for New Delaval Primary School to build an extension to increase the capacity of the school by an additional 105 places.
Finally, at Whytrig Middle School, part of the Seaton Valley Partnership, the installation of two double mobile classroom units will increase the capacity of the school by 144 places at a total cost of £672,000.
It was identified that Blyth, Morpeth and Seaton Valley will have a demand for school places that is predicted to be greater than those currently available.
A report to councillors states: ‘For many years, the town schools have been able to accommodate pupils from within their own catchments and have had enough surplus places to accommodate on average of around another 20 per cent of pupils from outside of the greater Morpeth catchment area.
‘However, there has been a significant increase in house-building in Morpeth recently and further significant housebuilding (in the region of 1,500 houses) is planned in the next five years or so.
‘As the pupils arising from new house building enter the Morpeth town first schools in Reception, over time these children will replace those from neighbouring partnerships; therefore data does not indicate that additional places will be required within the first-school phase in the short to medium term.
‘However, evidence and data from admissions requests indicates that there is already a demand for additional places arising for the two middle schools in the partnership as a result of pupils moving into the new housing in Morpeth.’
Conservative county councillor for Morpeth North, David Bawn, said after the meeting: “We inherited an absolute mess in terms of education in Morpeth.
“But we have taken control of the situation in the town and are beginning to make strides – as we promised to do.
“Parents have rightfully been concerned, but I can assure them this Conservative administration is getting to grips with the problem and we are determined to create an excellent education system for Morpeth and the whole of Northumberland.”