After a review of the new Essex County Council 10-year education plan, R4U has said it is concerned that ECC is still failing to provide enough school places.
ECC has announced their 10 year education plan for the county in which they are proposing to add about 2,500 school places in Uttlesford, just over 1,600 at the primary level and 930 for secondary. The authority has stated that they will build new primary schools in the district in the next 10 years, but no additional secondary schools. However ECC will be building new secondary schools in Colchester, Harlow, and Chelmsford, but crucially not in Uttlesford. Residents’ party R4U claims that ECC is falling well short and it needs to build 2 new secondary schools in Uttlesford to meet demand.
Cllr Neil Hargreaves (R4U), who regularly represents Uttlesford families on education matters, said “We welcome any investment in schools, but our analysis shows that we need two complete new secondary schools. Why are Uttlesford taxpayers expected to subsidise the building of new secondary schools in other parts of Essex while there is a continued long-term shortfall of places right here? ECC even admit to the shortfall in their new plan, but don’t propose to fix it. Every year Uttlesford tax payers send ECC enough money to build a new secondary school, so why aren’t we getting our fair share? To rub salt into the wound, ECC are pushing a large council tax rise on local families, yet they have withdrawn the school bus subsidies while they continue to send our children all over the place to school, even outside the county. They need to use our money to fix our problems first, not other peoples.”
R4U’s Neil Hargreaves continued “ECC’s plan also exposes their latest and most cynical deceit to try to cover their lack of local school places – their grouping of schools. For example, they are now grouping 8 primaries from Elsenham to Manuden to Birchanger as ‘one Stansted’ school, meaning they can statistically pretend they are offering a family ‘a local primary school place’ even if that pupil ends up being driven to a school six miles away every day. Primary age children need to be schooled close to home and friends. ECC has done the same by grouping the SWCHS and Joyce Frankland Academy as a single secondary school. This allows them to pretend that capacity now being added at JFA to take overspill from Saffron Walden is providing local places ‘in Saffron Walden’, which it clearly isn’t. ECC have already spent ten years watching our schools fill up and they need to accept reality and stop fudging the figures.”
Neil Hargreaves concluded “Amazingly it gets worse. Their school-places forecast is flawed because it is based on historical population growth and not new home building. It ignores more than 7,000 new homes from UDC’s Local Plan. Existing classes and schools cannot be expanded enough to cope, and so new secondary schools are actually what is required in Uttlesford. ECC is still failing Uttlesford families. R4U will continue to push for proper long-range planning, and for Uttlesford residents to get their fair share of the £43 million in council taxes they pay to ECC every year.”