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Radical plans to deal with Southampton's rising number of pupils
A Southampton primary school could be converted to take children right through from reception to their GCSEs under radical plans being considered to deal with rising pupil numbers in the city.
education bosses are looking at ways of averting a crisis when a surge in the number of youngsters coming through primary schools will see the need for an extra 1,000 secondary school places to be created on top of the existing capacity, within the next six years.
Several existing secondaries are likely to be expanded to take more students, but civic chiefs believe a new school for 11 to 16 year-olds could be the best way to tackle the problem.
Although the council has committed to retaining the former Millbrook School site once Oasis Academy Lord’s Hill moves to its new home in September, which could potentially be re-opened as a secondary, schools boss Cllr Jeremy Moulton is keen to examine other options.
The Green Lane site is being used to bring the city’s Pupil Referral Units for children excluded from mainstream schools under one roof, and the councillor believes it would be costly to then move that to create space for another secondary.
Cllr Moulton said: “Yes, we’ve got a spare secondary in the back pocket, but more creative solutions could add to the choice on offer to parents.”
There is currently no secondary school in the Bargate, Bevois or Freemantle wards that make up Southampton’s city centre, or neighbouring Portswood, meaning youngsters there are forced to travel longer distances once they leave primary education.
And the majority of the growth in numbers of children in Southampton – which has already seen the council bring in urgent plans to add 3,000 primary school places – is being seen in the city centre and around the University of Southampton.
Cllr Moulton said he expects secondaries like St George Catholic College and Upper Shirley High School will expand in the next few years, but is also looking at primary schools that could possibly grow to offer all-through education.
St John’s Primary in French Street and St Mark’s Primary in Shirley are two that have been identified as having the necessary potential space nearby to be expanded.
Cllr Moulton said: “What I would really like to test is whether there’s any appetite for an all-through primary/secondary school in the city.
“It’s sensible to start planning now. Nothing’s set in stone, but it’s sensible to listen to ideas and see what parents want, and I would encourage all head teachers to put their thinking caps on and be masters of their own destiny, rather than the council doing things to them, as has happened before.”