The number of children getting in to their 1st preference school has slightly increased from last year’s figure, yet there are significant areas of catchment refusal, especially around Cedars Park in Stowmarket and The Oaks in Ipswich.
Labour Group Spokesperson for Education, Sonia Barker, said “It is clearly a good thing, both for children and their parents that over 90% have got in to their preferred schools. But for children who can’t get into their catchment area school, the shortage of places makes life very difficult.”
Cllr Barker continued, “The simple fact is we have a rising population and more young people. Eventually, there won’t be enough Primary Schools in places like Ipswich, Stowmarket and Lowestoft to meet future demand. How are the Council’s laudable aims to improve Suffolk’s Education ever going to be achieved and maintained long-term when the ticking time-bomb of school placements is not being dealt with?”
Labour Group Spokesperson for Children’s Services, Helen Armitage, said “I am glad that the majority of our County’s children were able to be placed in their preferred School – speaking as a parent, it has to be remembered that this can be a difficult and stressful process for children, their parents and carers.”
Cllr Armitage concluded by saying, “Pressures in certain catchment areas are a concern that we must not lose sight of, particularly within my own division of Chantry in Ipswich. Increasingly, as capacity fails to meet demand, the choice system currently in operation will be rendered obsolete. The schools with the greatest demand for places do their best to accommodate as many children as they can, but there is a limit to how many places they can reasonably offer without affecting the education of the children in each class. The government’s claims that free schools will be able to pick up the shortfall of places does not apply in the areas of Suffolk with the greatest demand, the only options that we have are to either expand existing schools where possible or to build new schools. The areas which have the greatest need for school places have large numbers of families and demand is increasing year on year so this is a situation which needs to be addressed as soon as possible.”