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'Portable cabins are not the answer' to Southgate primary school crisis
A Southgate primary school is being “bullied” into squeezing extra children into portable cabins despite being at capacity.
Staff at West Grove Primary School in Chase Road have been told by Enfield Council they must provide an extra reception class for 30 pupils by this September, despite the buildings being full with 460 children and a further 39 on a waiting list.
The Enfield Independent understands that after parents at nearby Walker Primary School in Waterfall Road declared their intention to fight proposals to put the ‘bulge’ class there last month, council chiefs have now decided to try and force the extra pupils on West Grove.
But Councillor Daniel Pearce, chair of governors at the school, said the panic just two months before classes are due to begin “showed a total lack of planning for primary school places”.
He added: “Putting extra pupils in portable cabins in West Grove is a short-term fix that doesn’t solve the problem and bullying us into it isn’t the answer.
“Portable cabins are leased, less secure and cost far more to heat and insure, so forcing West Grove to do this is going to end up costing Enfield a lot of money and isn’t good for children.”
More than 1,200 people signed an online petition to oppose the bulge class at Walker Primary School last month, with children already being taught in corridors and the stock room due to limited space.
The Enfield Independent understands that De Bohun School in Green Road is happy to take the extra pupils and has empty classrooms, but is not being considered by the council because parents on the waiting list have warned of legal action if their children are sent there.
Cllr Pearce said: “We were told a week ago that we were categorically not in the picture for the bulge class because it’s not suitable and there’s no room.
“But roll on one week, and with parent pressure, press stories and panicky offers and that changes.
“Portable cabins are not the answer.”
The battle represents just one element of a crisis in primary school places across the borough. The council is already spending £1.5million on providing at least 200 extra reception places at six schools across Enfield by September.
These will be in a mixture of portable cabins and redesigned classrooms – Raynham Primary School’s music room has been converted into a classroom and the children’s centre at Bowes Primary School has been moved so the school can accommodate extra pupils.
There has been a 25 per cent increase in demand for places since 2005, and the council is planning to expand 13 schools in the next few years to provide an extra 23 classes by 2021 due to a rising birth rate and increased immigration.
But the plan is short on detail on who will pay for the work to build extra classrooms, with the main source of planned investment through the sell-off of council land and buildings.
Enfield Council said a decision on whether West Grove Primary School would take extra pupils had not yet been taken but that council officers were working hard to find a solution.