Fears Sutton Coldfield’s Education facilities won’t be able to cope if more homes are built on the green belt
3rd September 2013
A Freedom of Information request to Birmingham City Council has discovered what residents living in Roughly and former green belt site, Harvest Fields, have known for some time – transferring children to the nearest secondary school - a single bus journey 1 mile away, is already a challenge today.
Residents now fear any further homes built in the surrounding green belt will only make education options for children worse.
The questions raised with Birmingham City Council are as follows:
The results are as follows:
September 2012 intake
September 2011 intake
September 2010 intake
September 2009 intake
September 2008 intake
Of those accepted, many were initially rejected and had to face a couple of months anxiety via the appeal process. This is not ideal at all. Especially when you consider the houses in Roughly and on the Harvest Fields Estate are family homes.
Failure to transfer to Arthur Terry, results in residents facing the prospect of sending their young children via two bus journeys to an alternative school in Sutton Coldfield.
Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services, Brigid Jones said of the situation in an email “The Local Authority has a duty to provide sufficient school places for all young people to attend school and, in line with Department of Education guidance, we plan to be able to offer a secondary school place to every young person within three miles from where they live. In areas of the city where we are unable to offer young people a place within three miles, this is deemed to be a Basic Need issue and would trigger full consideration of the requirement for additional places to be provided. This would need to be balanced against the need to ensure we do not provide places surplus to requirements.”
This theory may be suitable in the urban areas of Birmingham where there are education facilities in all directions, but in the case of Harvest Fields and indeed the Roughly district, which is located on the edge of Sutton Coldfield’s green belt, it does not work. Pupils who are not accepted into the local school, Arthur Terry, are faced with two bus journeys to school’s further afield.
“When housing developments are planned, a formula is applied to determine pupil yields i.e. the numbers of students expected to live in the area once the housing is fully populated. For a new 10,000 house development (using three bed houses as a marker) we would expect a yield of 325 pupils per year group equating to a new 10FE all-through school. However, housing developments can often take many years to be completed and will be phased. Such developments are taken into account with our pupil projections to allow for planning. Where it is expected that a new development will create a pupil yield, we would request contributions from the developer to allow us to meet the needs of the influx in population.” said Brigid Jones.
So two things happen a) The developer pays cash across to the education authority and it just disappears into some slush fund; or b) the pupils get absorbed into existing schools by increasing class sizes or bolting on class rooms; Then the developer uses the land which was for the school to build more houses.
Brigid went on to say “All of Sutton's secondary schools (Arthur Terry, Bishop Vesey's Grammar, Fairfax, Plantsbrook, John Wilmott, Sutton Coldfield Grammar School for Girls and Bishop Walsh RC), are within three miles of the Duttons Lane development.
It is apparent that that young people from the wider area, including Harvest Fields Estate, are not served by the most local secondary school, Arthur Terry, and are therefore generally travelling to either Bishop Walsh Catholic school or John Wilmott secondary school.”
“While there is likely to be dissatisfaction at local level that families are not served by the most local secondary school, the issue as it stands does not constitute a Basic Need problem, i.e. all of the students can be offered a place within three miles, and there is therefore no case to provide additional school places in the locality at this time.” said Brigid.
The Arthur Terry School has been completely rebuilt under a PFI arrangement and it would therefore be unlikely that Section 106 funding would be spent on this school.”
The three mile principal is a concern. The Local Authority can build a further 1,000 houses on the green belt near Arthur Terry but provide additional places at John Wilmott or Fairfax, within three miles. This method does not consider children having to catch two buses to school, but the Council will have met their obligations.
Residents best point of attack is to lobby for appropriate restrictions when the planning consent, i.e.:Land for potential school to be handed to Local Authority or Community if no school is built in xxx years; Overall housing density: all changes must conform to initial masterplan i.e. average density not to exceed = total area of site / (initial number of houses proposed).
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