New Walsall school set to offer more than 1,000 places to cope with surge in demand

A free school offering more than 1,000 secondary places will open in Walsall to help cope with an anticipated surge in demand.

Education bosses are bracing themselves for big increases in numbers when thousands of new homes are built in the borough through the controversial Black Country Plan.

One of the solutions to help provide places for all the children coming into the borough will be a free school, expected to be open in 2025.

A site has yet to be chosen and bought by the Government, but the school will provide 900 places for Year 7-11 pupils and a further 250 for post-16 education.

Members of the education overview and scrutiny committee were told officers will look to establish a temporary school in the meantime while also looking at capacity in existing sites.

Councillor Bobby Bains said: “With the Black Country Plan in Aldridge, for example, there are sites where up to 800 houses could be built.

“We’re getting from parents there is a shortage of school places in the area and they’re struggling to get their children in.

“What provisions will be put in place to make sure future residents of Walsall have school places?”

Sharon Kelly, director for access and inclusion, said they would look to identify where schools can expand to take in more children.

On the forthcoming free school, the council’s head of access Rob Thomas, said: “We haven’t confirmed the location, we are in consultation with the department for education and they are reviewing the sites.

“They have a preferred site but it hasn’t been confirmed by the Department – they haven’t acquired the site as yet.

“It is planned to open in September 2025. We are currently working with them about interim provision and opening temporary accommodation for September 2023.

“We want to have a temporary school if it all goes to plan, starting the intake at Year 7 and it will transfer once the school is built for 2025.”

He added: “We work with Black Country education authorities to model demand based on housing forecasts so we know there is a number of thousand homes being built and therefore there will be over a period of time X number of children coming from those.

“We do look at the existing capacity within our schools and where appropriate we will make bids to the Department of Educations free school round for additional provision.

“The new free school round opens this spring and if we believe we’ve got a demand we will put an application in.”

Under the draft Black Country Plan, it is proposed Walsall provides enough land to build an 13,344 new houses up to 2039, with 5,418 of those on sites currently classed as Green Belt.

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