Education chiefs may have to build schools in parks to provide 10,000 new primary places in Barking and Dagenham
PUBLISHED: 12:44 07 September 2012 | UPDATED: 15:49 07 September 2012
The cabinet member in charge of education said it was too early to say which parks the council may have to build schools in to tackle the acute primary school crisis.
Cllr Rocky Gill said yesterday that Barking and Dagenham was reluctantly considering the “radical” approach to provide up to 10,000 extra primary places over the next decade.
He said the number of primary children was expected to grow from around 20,000 to 30,000 in the next 10 years, after the new census figures showed the percentage of children aged zero to four had increased by 50 per cent.
Other innovative ideas being looked out include building new schools in boarded-up pubs and teaching children in shifts.
The shift system would work by taking one group of pupils from early in the morning until lunchtime, and another in the afternoon until the evening.
Alternatively, one group would be taught during “condensed weeks” lasting three days from Monday to Wednesday, with the second cohort coming between Thursday and Saturday.
Cllr Gill said: “These are the most radical, innovative solutions. We need to examine these.
“At the end of the day, it is our statutory responsibility to provide school places.
“The census figures show us the changes ahead.”
The education cabinet member said the council estimated it would need £50million a year to provide the additional primary school places.
He said schools could be built in school playing fields first and then within some of the 35 or so parks and open spaces in Barking and Dagenham, but hoped the council would not have to go down this route.
He added: “We don’t want to be put in the corner of building schools in parks, but we need to think out of the box.”
Cllr Gill indicated the increasing birth rate in Barking and Dagenham had been driven by a change in demographics and the cheap housing market.
The government has responded to the school place crisis by allocating £180m of capital funding to Barking and Dagenham since May 2010.
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