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Primary School Places: Battle of the Bulge, round 3

Please Sir Can We Have Some More!

Kingston Council have just announced where Sep 2010's bulge classes will be located.

Good News: for the first time in three years, RBK appear to have provided enough places before the application deadline.
For a change, parents will have some sort of firm idea of where the places will actually be.

Bad News: they've shafted the Surbiton area.

RBK have already stated in their recent primary schools consultation that Surbiton needs at least five new classes, ie 150 pupils, yet in Sep 2010 they are only providing 60 extra places.

Last year RBK (eventually) provided 150 extra bulge classes for the Surbiton Educational Planning Area. These are detailed below:

Surbiton Educational Planning Zone Bulge Places Sep 2009
-----------------------------------------
Christ Church C of E Primary 30
Knollmead Primary 15
Maple Infants 30
St Matthew’s C of E Primary 45
Tolworth Infant and Nursery 30
-----------------------------------------
150 places

This year the Surbiton Educational Planning Zone is only getting 60 bulge places.

Surbiton Educational Planning Zone Bulge Places Sep 2010
----------------------------------------------
Grand Avenue Primary School 30
Knollmead Primary 15
St Matthew’s C of E Primary 15
---------------------------------------------
60 places

This figure is unlikely to change, as RBK will provide 300 bulge places boroughwide, the same final figure as last year.
The big change is that the bulk of the Sep 2010 places are going to other parts of the borough.

See http://www.kingston.gov.uk/information/news_and_events/news.htm?id=92635 for details of where the other 240 places are going.

Looking at the last two yers, it is clear from a. raw address data and b. actual applications received that Surbiton is suffering from acute under-provision of primary school places.
The likliehood is that some Surbiton parents, particularly of first born children, will be forced to travel to other parts of Kingston borough to get a school place.

Despite giving assurances that the location of bulge classes would be announced at the start of the admissions process, RBK only released details of bulge classes this afternoon, ie half way through the application period (commitment given in FAQ's on the primary school consulation, see http://www.kingston.gov.uk/primary_places_expansion_faq.pdf ).

News of the 2010 bulge palces came just hours after the application deadline for primary schools in neighbouring Elmbridge. If Surbiton parents had been aware of the forthcoming shortage of Surbiton school places, they could have applied to schools in Thames Ditton that may be closer than whatever school they end up getting offered, eg in Malden Manor

The situation is a mess and emphasises how desperately Surbiton needs a new primary school.

Comments

We currently live in London and are planning to move to Surbiton (Berrylands) to avail "the value proposition" of more space, greener and family oriented area, although with a daily commute to London. One of the key factors for moving to Surbiton was schooling for our child who starts in reception school next year. However, after reading various comments on this website, I get the following picture:

1. Outstanding and good schools in the area are seriously oversubscribed - Has the situation improved & how, given the last comments are as old as 2010?
2. Most of the state schools in Surbiton are linked to a particular faith, majority being CofE. That seems to be the overriding criteria. Not following a particular faith and being in the catchment area does not help at all (looking at the record of Christ Church in Berrylands last year)? Is my assumption correct?

We would really value your comments, views and suggestions...

Thanks

The shortage of primary school places for children of non (or non-attending) Church of England parents has finally improved in Berrylands over the last couple of years.

Grand Avenue has had an extra class added for each year's intake.
The new Lime Tree school, located at the Berrylands side of Surbiton Station, has created two extra classes.
Both these schools have admission policies that don't discriminate on the basis of the perceived religion of a four year old.

Additionally, the CoE St Matthews has added an extra half a class.
The CoE Christ Church has now agreed to take an additional class every four years out of seven. I think these extra classes will operate in years 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2016. And then resume again for four years from 2020. Somebody with kids at Christ Church might like to confirm.

Totalled up, that's 135 more places for reception pupils than there were a few years ago, so the pressure on places is certainly a lot less than before.

It should be highlighted that all the local schools are consistently very good. There is no one stand out school, and different schools top the league tables each year.

Thank you for your response.

Just wondering if anyone wanted to do anything about the situation in Surbiton. I have been in contact with Ed Davey who said the chosen bulge classes weren't acceptable and promised he would do something but I haven't heard back from him since. I also spoke to Helen Whately (conservative candidate) who said that she would organise a group to meet (which she did last year which meant extra Surbiton places) but she has told me that 'there isn't any interest'.

I'm sure there must be, anyone who looks in to the numbers can see that not everyone in Surbiton is going to get a school place in Surbiton (and lots of working parents here don't have cars that everyone seems to think they do in the stream above and does any one ready this thread really want their child to go to the 8th closest school to them?). The only reason that there were extra places last year and the year before is because the parents made a fuss about it. Are we really going to let this years intake be looked over just because we haven't made enough noise about it?

Hello Anonyomous who wrote the last post. Did your child get a place for th 2010 intake? Just interested as my child didn't get anywhere, although we don't live in Surbiton we live in North Kingston. I wonder how many unhappy parents there are out there.

As one of last year's parents, I'd advise you to gather up as many other parents as possible, and contact your local councillors (all of them).
I do feel sorry for you though, because it looks like the council have run out of options. Unless they can find some more room at the two church schools for more portacabins.
Surbiton parents who don't get an offer at any of their preferred schools will probably end up at King Athelston in central Kingston. Some mightn't even get in there, and might be pushed further out.

It's certainly a tricky situation. Have you considered moving to a different area for the sake of your children's education?

Realistically, where do you expect Kingston council to find the space in Central Surbiton? I can only speak from my experience of having a reception year child at Maple. They have had two bulge classes so far, using temporary accommodation, and without losing precious playground space there is just no more room for more temporary classrooms. Not to mention that SASM will need to find the space in a couple of years to accommodate most of these kids as they get older.

I'd love to see them build an school extension on the site directly next to that school. RBK has allowed permission to build flats there, but the greedy church sold the site for so much that the stupid developer who bought it ca no longer afford to build on it!

This site is key to the Maple Road area in my opinion. Careless developments of flats over the years has damaged it's character, but it still remains a lovely district. Another large block of flats could push it over the edge.

Easy.
Take your choice from:
a. the undeveloped building site next door to Maple Infants.
b. the half of the Surbiton Hostpital site not needed for the planned polyclinic (easily accessible to via Surbiton station steps.
c. St Matthews (has a huge site).

And it doesn't have to be in central Surbiton either. We're talking about no avaialble palces anywhere in the Surbiton Educational Planning Zone which stretches from Cranes Park Avenue, south to Knollmead (south of the Tolworth roundabout).

Off the top of my head I could add

d. Christ Church - large site that could esily accommodate a third bulge class. Interestingly, RBK say that both Christ Church and Maple Infants "have expressed interest in being considered for permanent expansion in 2011" but that "a third additional class in 2010 would impact on the physical capacity to deliver permanent places". Given the council's track record, there's more chance of me sharing a bath of baked beans with Cheryl Cole than the council managing to build a new school on either site by Sep 2011.

e. King Charles resource centre. Already zoned for educational use. Curerntly used for part time education classes. Remember that RBK have a legal duty to provide school places, and aren't legally obliged to provide flower arrangling classes to pensioners on wed afternoons.

Compare RBK's approach to the dynamic approach being taken by the (Lib Dem) council in Bristol. There, in the space of a year, and in spite of only having one previous bulge year, the lcoal council have set up a new school which will be hosted on another school's site temporarily until it gets a permanent site of its own.

Here, three years into this shortage, they can't even provide enough temporary places anywhere from Cranes Park Avenue to south of the A3, never mind formulate plans for a permanent school.

Really informative post, snatter. Do you have any information on why the number of children has been growing? Have families been moving to the area? Or are existing ones having more offspring? Have the council allowed too many new properties to be built?

I don't have children but if I was planning to I'd like to think that I'd first consider whether it was practical in the locality in which I lived. Folks who commute to London for work could probably move a bit further out and have a better environment - and presumably fewer overcrowded schools - for slightly longer journey times.

Perhaps the council should even encourage this?

A range of factors probably.
As with everything else to do with schools admissions, nobody has actually done any sound analysis, research or number crunching.

The Berrylands population was certainly on the elderly side a few years ago, many having moved in during the seventies to rear families of their own. They're now being replaced by families who appreciate the big houses and big gardens, within easy access of fast trains at Surbiton, yet avaialable for not much more than a 2 bed flat goes for in Wimbledon and Putney. They were no doubt attracted by the fact that all the local schools are good - there are no underachieving schools in the area, but I don't think that would have been the overriding reason. With so many schools in the area, nobody would have expected tehre to have been a shortage of places - after all that's we pay the council to provide enough.

There is also a London wide increase in school age children - this could be down to simple demographics. Kingston was the first LA to encounter a school place shortage in 2008, but several other London boroughs followed suit last year. It is notable that most are middle class type areas. Some people initially thought that it was a case of peopkle switching from private schools to the state sector, but with private places still full, that was disproved as a factor. Some have speculated that the recent trend of women psotponing having children until their late thrirties is the reason we're seeing this. By the time they do have children, they've already moved into these middle class family friendly areas.

The key point that should be emphasised however is not why the increase is there - rather it is how and why the increase was ignored. Remember that local authorities have a legal duty to pland and provide enough school places, and parents have a legal duty to send their 5 year olds to school. So regardless of why there is an increase, these kids should have been catered for, and in a timely manner. Remember that these kids haven't suddenly appeared overnight from Mars.

When our son was born in Kingston hospital in 2004, the midwife remarked that we'd better watch out about getting a school place in four years time as there had been sharp rise in births.
If the midwife was aware, why weren't the dozens of overpaid, over-pensioned bureaucrats who failed to see the problem coming.

In Greater London, we have 26 borough councils, all with their own "directors of Educational Resources" responsible for forecasting demand. That half of London boroughs now have a shortage of places, and that all of this half failed to see the problem coming is a damning inditement of both local and central government.

The councils blame the GLA, from whom they sourced data.
But if the councils merely rehash GLA data, why are we paying amply for Directors of Educational Resources (and subsidiary staff) in the first place? Somebody, somewhere in Government has to take responsibility for this systemic failure. Instead all we get is spin from the council and denial from central govt.

As recently as Feb this year, the DCSF were in denial about the extent of the problem here in Surbiton/ Kingston, and that was after we had erquested a ministerial determination from him on the situation here in Kingston.

Our local MP Ed Davey had to hold a parliamentary debate to highlight the problem.

The solution is obviously to provide more schools - quickly and located as closely as possible to where they're needed. Over the last five years, Kingston town planners have had no problems okaying hundreds of new homes, and are even using compulsory purchases to facilitate a planned mega multi million redevelopment of Kingston town centre. In that time they haven't provided a single extra permanent primary school place. That shows where there priorities have been.

A further suggestion I have for Greater London, is that rather than bankrolling 26 LA directors of educational resources (with subsidiary staff), why not save money by replacing the 26 educational resource directors with one London unit capable of doing the job that we pay them to do.

It is a bit of both, I think. The outer reaches of Surbiton have always attracted families as they provide relatively cheap housing for their proximity to London.

The housing boom over the last ten years has meant that the more expensive, central part of Surbiton has also become popular with families. People who would typically have bought a house in Wimbledon when having their first child are now doing so in Surbiton as it is relatively more affordable.

At the same time, I know a lot of Surbiton residents who are staying in their existing flats when having a child. A few years ago, they may have upgraded to a house in Berrylands, but now that is less affordable.

There would have been a minimal number of families with kids living in places like Grove Road or Cleaveland Road five years ago, now it is virtually like a new 'nappy valley'.

The council will take a few years to catch up.

Listen to you lot!
You sound like a typical bunch of bitter youth hating Daily Mail pensioners.
The logical extension of your argument is that that either
1. people shouldn't have kids OR
2. if they do, parents should pay for their education.

Option 1 is probably a non-runner as historically humans have had a desire to reproduce. You probably can't remeber, but its quite a nice desire.
Option 2 is not feasible either, as this country decided as far back as the 19th Century that free, compulsory education was a good thing.
At the same time it was made illegal to clean chimneys with small children.
No doubt that would ahve been your next suggestion to solve Surbiton's school places shortage.

To enlighten you - this country accepts that free education is a good thing.
Consequently it is the legal duty of all councils to provide enough school places within a reasonable distance or journey time.
For a four year old, this is defined by the Dept of Children Schools & Families as two miles in distance, or 45 minutes by public transport.
It is also illegal to have class sizes of more than 30, reflecting universal acceptance that smaller class sizes give better educational results.

Here in Surbiton, the council initially failed to provide enough places for the 2008 intake (60 places short) and for 2009(150 places short).
In both years, the shortfall was rectified by providing bulge classes in various Surbiton schools.
In both years, the council's per application estimate of extra palces needed was way of the mark (60 short in 2008 & 90 short in 2009).

This year the council's (historically inadequate) estimate is that they are 120 places short in Surbiton.
The **BIG DIFFERENCE** from previous years is that they say they can only provide 60 extra places in Surbiton.

RBK claim that the additional 30 places at King Athelstan (central Kingston) are available for Surbiton pupils, but under RBK's distance based admission criteria, its unlikely that all of KA's 30 extra places will go to Surbiton pupils. Even if they did, by the council's own admission, that leaves a minimum of 30 Surbiton families for whom no places are available in any school from central Kingston to as far south as Knollmead (south of Tolworth roundabout).

On the basis of previous years, this minimum of 30 is likely to be a low estimate, and in all probability at least 50 families could be affected. RBK have given a bland assurance that "there will be sufficient places...... in local schools", but fail to say what they mean by local.

Tellingly, they have been unable to give any indication of how far Surbiton parents may have to travel to find a place in Sep 2010. As things stand at the minute, there is every chance that affected families will be offered places as far away as Malden Manor and New Malden.

Travelling times from Surbiton to Malden Manor/New Malden (even if a car is available to all affected parents) could have a severe impact on working families, especially as many Surbiton parents commute into London. A return journey to drop the kids off and get back home to park the car, before walking to Surbiton station would easily add an hour to a parent's commute. Similarly, they would have to leave work an hour earlier than at present to do the pick-up again.

Worryingly for these parents, RBK envisage that any new Surbiton school will only admit reception class children. Surbiton parents forced to take a place at some far corner of the borough in Sep 2010 could now face a seven year sentence of cross-borough commuting. Realistically, many will feel forced to sell up and move from Surbiton. Under the admission rules, non-Church of England parents of first born children, living in East Surbiton / North Berrylands are most likely to be affected.

There is a council election 5 weeks after school places are announced.
The two wards most affected will be Surbiton and Berrylands.
I really can't believe that the Lib Dems will be so stupid as to allow the possibility of 50 angry families overshadowing their chances of keeping their 6 councillors.
I am hopeful, even at this stage, that
a. some extra room would be found for bulge classes in Surbiton.
b. RBK reverses its decision not to allow older children to start in any new Surbiton school (hopefully on the unneeded half of the Hosptial site).

Oh, and to address John's point about rural areas:
As it happens, I grew up in a rural area. My secondary school was 13 miles away, yet only took 25 minutes to get to by bus. Croydon is the same 13 mile distance from Surbiton. In morning rush hour, the journey would probably take at least an hour and a quarter by public transport.

This illustrates the inherent differences between rural and urban transport - congestion, and consequently, a much greater time to travel the same distance in a large city like London. I'd have thought that was pretty obvious to anybody with some degree of geographical literacy.

Don't be! There are many wonderful things about life in the UK!

Thank you, Poppy & Anonymous - great to know that there's some support out there for my heretical views!

Isn't it amazing, Poppy, that those of us who were educated in primary-school classes of 40+ can actually write, spell, & string words together into sentences which have some meaning?! Funny, too, that we really enjoyed school. Maybe that had something to do with the fact that we were in no doubt at all about why we were there ... to LEARN something useful. And the greatest joy was to come home, KNOWING that we HAD indeed learned & progressed.

Oh, Anonymous, thank you so much for reminding me about the hypocrisy & double-standards! I mustn't get excited, though! I could go on for ages on that topic - but it's bad for my health! Your side-long comments about the tax-credit funding of "breeders", and the unwillingness of so many "breeders" to take financial responsibility for their spawnings, warmed my heart. Bless you.

John,there is too much pussyfooting around nowadays in almost everything our Governments try and control,most of them have never actually done any "work" amongst the sweaty masses toiling away to pay outrageous taxes that keep these morons in their ivory towers and Quangos.

Sadly I cannot see anyone coming along politically who will get a grip on things and encourage self reliance and the whole work ethic,what a tragedy it is that this great country has lost its drive and adventurous spirit.

That's two uses of "sadly", poppy. Are you really so sad?

Yes

There is a very simple solution and that is to increase the class sizes to 42/46(quite normal in the fifties and sixties).Then make the children sit at desks and face the front,allow teachers to teach and brook no interference from ipods and mobile phones.

Sadly a good caning for the real trouble makers is probably a step too far nowadays,but excluding all the hooligans and getting restraining orders on their parent or possibly parents would introduce a culture within the classroom conducive to learning for those who wanted to.

Oh horror of horrors! The very thought that some children might have to get off their backsides & travel a couple of miles to a school! How shocking! There really should be a school at every street-corner. Wouldn't that be wonderful?!

For crying out loud, what on earth is the problem?!

You urban parents have such a cushy time of it. What about families in remote country areas, where kids have to get up at sparrow-fart, & travel on a bus for miles to get to a school? For God's sake, get real and stop moaning.

And while we're dealing in brainless whingeing, why don't gay/single/childless people get a rebate on their Council Tax, for NOT inflicting education costs on the community?

If you want to have children, accept the responsibilities, difficulties, & sacrifices which are involved. And remember that you are being heavily subsidised by those of us who aren't littering the country with badly-behaved, obese, brats.

B[filtered word], this is meant to be an intelligent debate about Surbiton Schools, not an excuse for miserable and bitter people to vent their frustration just because they dont have kids. The fact is I have two young 'badly-behaved obese brats' (in your words) who are due to start primary school next year and if you want me to still carry on working and pay taxes towards this borough then I simply wont be able to if I have to add an hour onto my commuting time as a result of driving across to the other side of Kingston or Chessington - that is the point! Whilst we are on that note I live next door to three people in separate flats, none of whom have families who are all on benefits for various dubious reasons so as a mother I am contributing far more tax wise than any of them... I have worked at the same company for fourteen years and may have to claim benefits after all if it isnt feasible for me to continue working because I cant find a suitable part time alternative, what a waste of my education....

Just increase the class sizes and all children will be able to go to their local schools.
I accept that as a non Daily Mail reading pensioner my views are percieved as extreme but I really cannot understand the country wide reluctance to face the obvious population explosion created,we now learn by a government inspired immigration drive to attract young couples of child bearing age.
We just cannot build schools willy nilly so why cant existing sites be extended upwards?

Poppy,

I don't know about the Daily Mail, but you musn't read the more informative posts here. To recap, it is illegal to create class sizes of more than 30. That's the law, that's the way it is, and for good reason - kids get a better education.

RBK can't change or break that law, that's the way it is.
But they do have a legal duty to provide enough school places within a reasonable distance for four year olds. That is defined as two miles or 45 minutes travelling time by public transport.

For your benefit, I'll repeat the gist of the problem:

For Sep 2010, RBK calculate that they need 120 bulge places in the Surbiton area, defined by them as stretching from south of the Tolworth roundabout to the boundary with Kingston town. Based on previous years, most of the unmet demand for school places in this area will be concentrated in Berrylands and Surbiton town.

This year, for the first time since this annual series of shortages began, RBK now say that they can't find any room for all the bulge classes needed in this area. They can only find room for 60 out of the 120 temporary palces they say they need in the affected area.

They are offering the prospect of 30 places being available at King Athelstan in central Kingston for Surbiton parents, but have failed to adjust distance based admission rules that would ensure these extra places are reserved for Surbiton parents. Even if all 30 places in KA were reserved for Surbiton children, by the council's own admission, that would still leave a minimum of 30 schildren who have no indication of just what corner of the Kingston borough they will be offered a place.

That's just not good enough at this stage. RBK have had three years to ensure that there are enough temporary primary places. At this stage Surbiton parents need a clear unequivocal commitment from RBK that there will be enough Sep 2010 school places within a reasonable travelling time of their homes.

It is disturbing to see in today's Surrey Comet that even the opposition councillors haven't grasped the difference between Sep 2010 and previous years. Last year Surbiton / Berrylands parents were concerned about being forced to travel as far as Knollmead. Knollmead is south of the Tolworth roundabout and up to 40 minutes travelling time by public transport from northern Surbiton. This year, RBK has admitted that they can't even offer places at Knollmead to northern Surbiton parents - the whole Surbiton educational area is full and has no room for all the temporary places the council reckons it needs.

As things stand, if the council's estimates are correct, a minimum of 30 pupils will be offered palces much furtehr afield. Hopefully they see sense and come up with somewhere for these 30 places. St Matthews, with the biggest site of all local schools, surely has the space to take an additional 30 pupils on top of the extra 15 they're already taking. That would hopefully solve the problem (as long as
RBK have undercalculated the number of places needed).

Conservative councillor Nick Kilby says that we should wait until places are allocated in March before hitting the panic button. Well as things stand, I don't see any reason to wait. Political pressure needs to be exerted on all council parties immediately to ensure that extra effort is made to find room for all the Surbiton bulge places needed.

An election 5 weeks after allocations are announced is a huge incentive for Lib Dems to rectify the situation. In a perverse way, if the local Conservatives had Machiavellian instincts, they could deliberately downplay the situation and then wait for the wave of angry parents to erupt.

Snatter
I would be very interested to get in touch with you. I don't live in Surbiton but in North Kingston - the other area most affected by the shortage of primary school places. I have a son due to start school in Sept '09. Last year (for 2009 intake) 90 community school places were provided in North Kingston (Fern Hill, Alexandra and Latchmere) following 60 places the previous year (2008 intake): Fern Hill and Alexandra. This year these schools will no longer be bulged but 60 places will be provided at St Lukes and St Agathas. Firstly, this is not likely to be enough. Secondly, the extra places are still dependant on religious and not distance criteria. Thirdly, the whole system is now out of kilter due to the knock on effect of the bulge classes i.e. last year 90 places were available at Fern Hill with only 23 siblings, this year 60 places with 36 siblings. Any other year my son would most likely have got into Fern Hill - out local community school. Like the area you are talking of in Surbiton North of North Kingston has been turned into an educational no mans land. I will apply to the Ham schools, but am not that close, and Richmond has no right to legally offer me a place.

Anyway - do you fancy getting together to raise awareness of this issue? In past years RBK has come out with lines like "we are expanding the schools that parents want, in the areas with most demand". 2010 children are getting a really raw deal. RBK is saying in effect "we are just bulging anywhere now, regardless of local demand or preference - we need to sort out premanent expansion for 2011, so 2010 intake will just have to go anywhere".

Its disgusting and enormously stressful. Like you I very much doubt that schools will be expanded permanently for 2011 - especially with the general election coming up next May (or whenever).

Please contact me on hluff@yahoo.com

Confession time Snatter,I had not realised that the 30 figure was actually on the statutes yet.Reading through the various government websites still reveals a wide view of how to implement and enforce and in fact it appears to have not yet been enforced on any council.
Nonetheless I will take it as fully enshrined and irrevocable,at least until a change of Government.

So,the answer is to look afar and implement the "hot desking" principle in use in parts of Asia.
Simply have two sessions per day in the existing classrooms,this does not seem to harm the standards in Asia where,by any measure,children seem to be very well educated.

I do partially agree - go a bit further outside London and you will find children travelling 10 miles or more to get to their closest school. It does seem a little rich to moan about having to travel 2 or 3 miles.

However, driving the few miles from Surbiton to Malden Manor in the morning would be much busier and take much longer than through country lanes in Hampshire. Additionally, I would have thought urban families would be more likely to have both parents working to support the higher cost of living.

The thing I find quite strange is the double standards - parents don't want to send their kids to school more than 100 metres away, but as soon as an opportunity comes up to attend a top quality school like Tiffin they are prepared to make their kids trek in from the other side of London.

Good point about the council tax rebate. It would be a brave politician who put that bill forward! This country is set up to encourage people to have kids at all costs - tax credits, free schooling etc I think a lot of people would think twice about having kids if they had to pay for them properly.

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