Angry parents in Gedling borough met with councillors last night (May 10) to voice their concerns about the lack of secondary school places in the area due to housing growth.
The meeting, which took place at Gedling Memorial Hall, was swiftly organised by Ben Hemstock and wife, Claire, after a freedom of information request he made to Nottinghamshire County Council revealed 713 children would be without a secondary school place in the borough by 2025.
Mr Hemstock told the audience of 46 that 1880 houses are to be built in the area over the next few years and so far only new primary schools are being planned to support the housing growth, with no plans for a new secondary school.
During his presentation Mr Hemstock said he now feared his daughter would be struggling to find a place locally when it was her time to move to a secondary school.
Mr Hemstock said: “My wife and I have two girls. My eldest will be attending a secondary school in 2023, and as the figures show, at that time there will be a deficit of 662 places.
He went on to reveal that this year some children from the Gedling borough area had recently been sent to a secondary school in Bramcote due to lack of places.
He said: “Most parents are probably working and can’t afford that time in the morning to get their children to Bramcote. Currently it’s only two or three, but it’s an issue.
“People from County Hall want to bury their heads in the sand and not address the problem, but the stats don’t lie.”
Jane Cook from Gedling Conservatives was in attendance and slammed the figures, saying they were based on ‘a doomsday scenario’.
She said: “All these figures you’ve seen tonight are based on a projection if measures were not put in place to deal with it.”
The Conservative representative told the audience that a feasibility study was now being undertaken by the council “to ensure we have the right schools and enough places”.
She said: “That’s what I’ve been told will take place and that’s what will happen.”
Mrs Cook also defended the decision to close Sherwood Academy school, which at its peak educated 1000 students but was closed down in 2016.
She blamed ‘poor leadership’.
She said: “Nobody wanted to send their children there because it was a failing school. It was surplus to requirements
“We don’t just need schools in the area, we need good schools. We have an outstanding school in Carlton le Willows and most parents want to send their children there.
She went on to defend the council by quoting recent figures on secondary school placements in the area.
She said: “This year 98% got one of their preference schools; 92 got their first preference school. That’s their highest figure. It’s a record.”
Deputy leader of Gedling Borough Council, Cllr Michael Payne, is a governor at Redhill Academy. He criticised Cllr Philip Owen, who is chairman of the Children & Young People’s Committee, for not attending the meeting to hear the views of local people.
He said: “Mr Owen should be here tonight. 70 percent of your council tax goes to Nottinghamshire County Council and at the end of the day they are the educational authority.
“I’d just say this to people who don’t think there is a problem with secondary school places, most secondary schools in Gedling borough are currently taking more kids than their published number. They are over their number.
“The county council have got to get round the table with the head teachers and people who are here tonight and try and resolve this issue.”
Vernon Coaker MP was also in attendance.
Mr Coaker said he thought secondary school places were a problem and another school in Gedling was now needed.
He told those gathered: “People are coming to me in a desperate situation. It might not be financially viable to build a school at the moment, but if we don’t start looking into this now there will be panic in five years.
He added: “It’s not acceptable. Let’s hope this meeting will put pressure on the council and they feel embarrassed and act.”
In a statement to Gedling Eye, Cllr Philip Owen said allegations of a problem are ‘complete nonsense’.
He said: “If there is any concern amongst parents in Gedling about a lack of school places, then this has been cynically manufactured by certain politicians spreading fear and misinformation for their own purposes before the recent local elections.
“To be clear, allegations of a shortage of school places are complete nonsense, and parents can be assured that sufficient places will be available now and in the future in Gedling and indeed across Nottinghamshire. The County Council already has a successful strategy in place to ensure that there are enough school places for its residents.
“Between 2012 and 2018, to accommodate rising birth rates and new housing developments, we have created 5,694 primary school places across Nottinghamshire, including 470 in Gedling. Following on from this, plans are in place to expand existing provision to meet the need for secondary school places as these children grow older.”
Mr Hemstock closed the meeting saying his group would now be looking at what action to take and urged those interested to join his Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/306032756776877/