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PM pledge over crowded Winchester schools
THE Prime Minister has pledged to help struggling Winchester schools cope with a squeeze on pupil places.
Winchester MP Steve Brine raised the issue during Prime Minister’s Questions, asking David Cameron whether enough was being done to meet demand for places from a growing population.
He said: “As a constituency MP, the Prime Minister will be aware of the current shortage in primary school places across our country. It is particularly acute in Winchester right now, where temporary classrooms are the order of the day, to accommodate reception year pupils for this September.
"May I ask the Prime Minister what the government are doing to help councils in this bulge year, and whether he is confident that enough is being done to prevent a repeat performance when those pupils reach secondary school in six years' time?"
Mr Cameron said £2.8b had been set aside to help schools across the country by 2013.
He said: “I know that in certain constituencies this is becoming an issue. What the Department for education has done is put aside £1.4 billion of schools capital for 2011-12 and a further £1.4 billion for the subsequent year.
"There is also the opportunity, through free schools, to have excellent new schools established in hon. members' constituencies, so that we get not only new capacity, but the competition and choice that I believe will help to drive up standards."
It comes as consultation ended on Friday (June 15) into two options to deal with the demand for places in Winchester, with 9,000 more needed across the county by 2016.
The squeeze has been generated by increasing birth rate, house building and more families moving to the area.
One option would see a £10m two-form entry primary school built at the Westgate School in Fuflood for four-to-16-year-olds, the first of its kind in Hampshire, which would open in 2014.
The other plan is an £11m expansion of five primary schools – Western in Fulflood, Winnall, All Saints in Highcliffe, Harestock and St Peter’s Catholic in Oliver’s Battery – to provide an extra 74 reception places in September 2012 and 2013.
Earlier this year county council education boss Roy Perry said an extra £31m had been given to the county to ease the pressure.
He is expected to make a final decision on the Winchester plans by July 17.