Six Walsall schools to be expanded - but at a cost of nearly £10 million
An expansion of six schools is poised to swing into action – although it will cost £3 million more than expected.
The work, which will create 105 new spaces for pupils in Walsall, was originally expected to cost £6.5m but that estimate has now been put at £9.5m.
However Walsall Council bosses say the funds are there and the plans have been recommended for approval when they go before members of the council’s cabinet on Wednesday.
Included in the plans are: Old Church Primary on School Street in Darlaston, Salisbury Primary on Salisbury Street in Darlaston, Manor Primary on Briar Avenue in Streetly, Leighswood Primary on Broadmeadow in Aldridge, St Michael’s Church of England Junior Mixed and Infant School in Pelsall and Short Heath Junior School on Pennine Way in Willenhall.
The extra costs are partly down to the cost of work at St Giles increasing by around £600,000 after mine shafts were found during ground investigations.
The expansions will create a total of 105 new spaces overall across the six schools, which are all rated good or outstanding by Ofsted with the exception of Leighswood, which is deemed to require improvement.
The school which will see the biggest increase in pupils is Short Heath Junior School, which will see 30 new pupils brought in.
Councillor Aftab Nawaz, cabinet member for childrens services and education at Walsall Council, said: “I think these plans are good news for Walsall, we want to have enough school places on offer to keep residents happy.
“We have the support of the schools and their governors which we are pleased with and I think the expansions will benefit each of these schools.
“There may be some concern over parking but most of our schools are in built up areas anyway because people want to live near a school, that is a big factor in people buying a property if they have children.
“The cost has gone up but that was something we were expecting to a certain degree, projects like this usually do end up varying from the original cost.
“However, I would like people to know that once these plans are signed off, we are going to ensure we get value for money with this.
“That is our attitude at the council, especially in this current climate, across all areas.”
The expected approval of the expansion plans come just after it was announced that a new secondary school catering for more than 1,100 pupils will open next year in Walsall.
The Department for Education has approved a proposal for The Blakenall School to go ahead with the first pupils set to be welcomed from September 2018. The free school, which will be run by the Windsor Academy Trust, will initially take in 180 new Year 7 students but will be able to cater for 1,150 in total including a sixth form for 250 pupils
In Wolverhampton, plans are under way to expand eight schools as part of a £34 million council plan to meet a growing demand for places. Three primary schools and five secondaries are set to expand as part of the scheme. The city saw a 24 per cent rise in the number of births between 2002 and 2014 – which has led to the increasing demand for school places.
Council leaders say despite more than 2,000 extra places being created since 2012 more are required.