A former Kirklees education chief is demanding urgent action to avert a “massive problem” with school places.
Deputy Mayor Clr Jim Dodds says that new houses in the pipeline will put intolerable pressure on the school system, particularly in and around Scissett where hundreds of new homes are to be built.
If no action is taken, pupils may have to be bussed out of Kirklees to Wakefield and other areas.
But current education chairman Clr Shabir Pandor denied there is a problem, stating: “We are investing heavily in schools. “We reduce or increase the number of places across the district depending on local demand”.
Clr Dodds claims that many schools in the Denby Dale ward are not only full, but already exceed their PAN (published admission number) for the number of pupils Kirklees Council has agreed will be admitted without causing problems for the school.
Clr Dodds, Kirklees Cabinet member for Children and Young People’s Services from 2006 to 2009, says a housing free-for-all, coupled with families relocating to the area for its good schools and others who ferry their children from out of catchment area, is already causing problems and it set to get much worse.
He believes that the council’s projections - based on historical NHS birth rates and the rate of three new school places needed for every 100 houses built - are wildly inaccurate. A 2012 development of 99 homes resulted in an influx of more than 50 pupils over two years at Scissett First School.
Clr Dodds has held meetings with local headteachers concerned at growing numbers of pupils and lack of school places.
“It’s a nightmare. I want Clr Pandoor to accept there is a problem and to put forward scenarios to try and resolve it.
“We have got massive problems with the way Kirklees Council do the figures based on NHS birth rates, which show the population is on the decrease and places available at all schools - this is a false premise and misleading for families.
“Every year almost every school in the Denby Dale ward is full, yet according to the statistics there will be 67 empty school places in 2017.
“The schools are a victim of their own success. There are so many children at Scissett Middle School, which was built in the 1960s, that they have to operate a one-way system in the corridors.
“All headteachers are concerned at the numbers. There is a projected massive influx of people into the area; planning, budget and infrastructure issues need to be addressed. Worst case scenario is that children living in the Denby Dale ward have to be bussed out of Kirklees to Wakefield and other areas.”
Clr Pandor said: “Our planning also accounts for the expected growth in house building and how this will impact on the local education system. Using intelligence and data, we plan in a way that ensures there are enough high quality places across Kirklees.
“Officers have met with the councillors in the Denby Dale area to discuss school places and outline these processes. Data shows that there are enough places in the Denby Dale area to meet the current and predicted demand.”