Baby boom means two new schools for Sheffield

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A BOOM in baby numbers means Sheffield is to build its first new primary schools in a generation.

Another 840 school places are to be created by two new schools, each costing £5.5 million.

Both will be open by September 2014.

The schools will be based in the north east of the city - but, with no sign of birthrates slowing citywide, planners are not ruling out extra places being created elsewhere in years to come.

The news was welcomed by families with young children who have struggled to secure school places at the primaries of their choice.

And Coun Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for children, young people and families, said: “It is absolutely essential we provide the extra places that are needed.”

The new schools will be on Skinnerthorpe Road in Fir Vale, and on the site of the old Watermead School in Shirecliffe.

The new Watermead will result in the old primary being demolished and a replacement built in its place.

The project marks a change of strategy by education planners, who have been coping with rising birth rates for the last decade.

Schools in other areas of the city are also under pressure, with places scarce in Firth Park, Crosspool, Netherthorpe, Dore and Totley.

Planners are not ruling out that extra places will be needed in those areas in the years to come.

The north east of Sheffield currently has 15 primary schools, offering up to 1,000 reception class places each year.

But more than 1,000 more children entered primary school in Sheffield this term compared with 2001/2.

The response up to now has been to expand existing schools, with over 2,500 extra places created over the last six years.

But councillors will be told next week that continuing the policy is unsustainable with no sign of the birth rate slowing - and new schools are the only option.

Forecasts show pupils will outstrip places from next September in areas including Southey Green, Shirecliffe, Longley, Burngreave, Fir Vale and Firth Park.

Recent Government legislation means both new primaries will be academies, and will need outside trusts to run them.

But council leaders are keen to make sure communities get behind the new schools and let them know how they want them to be run, during a two month consultation period.

Coun Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for children, young people and families said: “We know parents and carers having a direct involvement in schools has a massive effect in driving up standards. That is why it is absolutely essential we provide the extra places that are needed, and ensure there is a strong local voice and character within this process.”

Residents in north east Sheffield welcomed the news.

Farhad Mirzae, aged 22, a bakers’ shop assistant on Barnsley Road, Fir Vale, said: “It’s good news. I have two children aged six and three and getting a school place is very difficult.”

Nawzad Ali, 30, at the Fantastico Barbers on Barnsley Road, said: “It’s great. It will mean more customers for me and, as I have a daughter who is one, the school should be ready when she is old enough to go.”

Security officer Nassar Khan, 23, of Herries Road, said: “A lot of Slovakian people have moved in lately and it has been difficult for them to find places for their children in local schools. This should help.”

Housewife Elaine Williams, 34, of Southey Close, welcomed the Watermead proposals.

“My youngest daughter is four and I am hoping she can get a place in Longley, but it is difficult. A new school will certainly make things easier. I just hope it’s as good as Parkwood where my 13-year-old goes. That’s a wonderful school.”

And Karen Smith, 26, from Southey, added: “It’s great news, and about time too. It’s a big worry finding a school place unless your child has a sibling who already attends.”