Council leader vows to ‘provide right infrastructure’ as demand for Barking and Dagenham school places is expected to soar

L-R: Cllrs Syed Ghani and Evelyn Carpenter, cabinet member for education. Picture: LBBD

L-R: Cllrs Syed Ghani and Evelyn Carpenter, cabinet member for education. Picture: LBBD - Credit: Archant

The number of school pupils in the borough is set to increase to more than 50,000 in the next five years, a council report reveals.

Cllr Evelyn Carpenter, Barking and Dagenham Council's cabinet chief for education, said at a town hall meeting she was worried about the growth and whether people are thinking about "good" school sites "at the heart of communities" and not next to places like sewage works.

Cllr Cameron Geddes said: "Infrastructure has to be there. Messing up school places would ruin the party completely."

Forecast figures show a potential rise in the school population of 17 per cent from the current 42,889 to 50,035, up to 2023/24.

But a planned 41,000 additional homes to 2034/35 could see 45,580 more young people, meaning significant investment is needed to generate new school places.

The local authority estimates the borough will need 22 more nurseries, 14 extra primaries, up to 10 additional secondaries and two special schools at an estimated total cost ranging from £486million to £823m, excluding land costs.

Among measures Cllr Carpenter presented at the meeting of cabinet chiefs on Tuesday, January 1 one concerned Mayesbrook Park School, spread across three sites and for pupils not in mainstream schools.

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"I've asked for a review of current provision and for this to be done as speedily as possible, with possibly a new building. These pupils are important to us all," Cllr Carpenter said.

Barking and Dagenham has experienced rapidly increasing numbers of youngsters needing support for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), councillors heard.

A forecast total of 113 primary and 353 secondary SEND pupils is anticipated over the next four years, the majority with autism.

An example of expanding provision is Pathways, a new free school, set up by the EKO Trust in September at the former City Farm in Thames Road, Barking.

It will operate until the Department for Education builds a school capable of taking 90 pupils.

Cllr Carpenter also explained the council would need to contribute £5.3m to Greatfields School to help pay for the cost of clearing contaminated ground on building work at the site in St Mary's, Barking.

Council leader Cllr Darren Rodwell said: "I'm not fearful. We will provide the right infrastructure for families to flourish."