Saffron Walden School Funding Collapses; County Councillor Calls for Urgent Action – Press Release

Residents for Uttlesford (R4U), the local party of towns and villages, has announced that its Essex County Councillor John Lodge has called for urgent action by Essex County Council on education as funding for school growth in Saffron Walden collapses.

Storm clouds over Katherine Semar Primary as Essex County Council removes funding that was pledged before the election and intended for new classrooms

The lack of a coherent plan for education has been a contentious issue for the last 3 years since potential changes to school catchment Priority Admissions Areas were highlighted by residents in 2012. During the 2015 election campaign ECC Conservatives pledged more than £2 million in funding for schools in Saffron Walden to close the chronic shortfall of places due to the recent approval of many new homes in the town.

The Primary Problem

It has now emerged that the £2m pledged for the major expansion of Katherine Semar has been withdrawn by the Conservative-led ECC adminstration.

Cllr John Lodge (R4U) Cllr John Lodge (R4U, ECC)
Essex County Councillor for Saffron Walden and R4U party chair John Lodge said “I am furious to learn that ECC have withdrawn the funding for expansion to the Katherine Semar School which they pledged before the election. This money was to build new classrooms to take 30 new pupils a year starting in 2017. Primary schools are full and a minimum of 250 more primary and secondary places are now required for the new homes that UDC has already approved in the town. The 15 primary places provided at R.A. Butler this year are not nearly enough. What makes things worse is that we understand that the new primary school near Tesco won’t be open for at least 3-5 years.”

ECC was already predicting a deficit of 140 primary places and 112 secondary places in the town by 2018. The removal of the expansion of Katherine Semar will increase this primary school place deficit to 200 pupils by 2018. For comparison, the whole year’s form intake at R.A. Butler School is 90 pupils (after their expansion of 15).

The head teachers of all the Saffron Walden primary schools are also very concerned and have recently issued a public statement to vent their frustration.

“All Head Teachers in Saffron Walden are increasingly concerned about the lack of school places. Every week, every school is getting phone calls from families moving into the area who do not have places in their catchment area. In every school, families are split as the schools cannot accommodate siblings together. Without the expansion of Katherine Semar and a with new school unlikely to be built until 2018, we are increasingly concerned about what will happen to children due to start school in September 2017 as we know there are not sufficient school places available.”
Joint statement by the heads of Katherine Semar, St Thomas More, the R A Butler and St Mary’s Primary Schools

Secondary Effects

Poor long range planning by both County and Districts Councils also mean that school places are in short supply at the Saffron Walden County High School. This has led to families that are inside the catchment areas not finding places.

A chronic shortfall of places means that parents living in the east of the SWCHS catchment Priority Admissions Area are unable to get their children into the local secondary school

Cllr John Lodge said “It’s not just primary places. This year the Saffron Walden County High School was again unable to accept pupils who actually live inside the catchment Admissions Area because that school is also full. What’s more, UDC has failed to implement the right policies to be able to collect money from developers to fund secondary education in the first place. For example the Catons Lane developer Persimmon will pocket an additional £125,000 which should be funding school expansions. Instead we taxpayers will have to make up the shortfall.”

School places are in deficit and UDC has failed to implement the right policies to be able to collect money from developers to expand school capacity. ECC are clearly not happy and have written to UDC. Click image to read letter.

Action Needed Now

Cllr Lodge concluded “The Planning Inspector who refused UDC’s Local Plan last year was right to be concerned about the piecemeal approach to infrastructure provision in Uttlesford. Either the electorate were misled before the election or there has been gross mismanagement of the education portfolio. Residents rightly want and need action now, so I have demanded a review of the education strategy.”

About Residents for Uttlesford