Schools full up - plea goes out to secondary schools to take four and five year-olds

CHILDREN as young as four could soon find themselves attending secondary schools as part of a planned overhaul of the education system across North Somerset.

Draft proposals have been drawn up to deal with a shortage of primary school places anticipated when thousands of new homes are built in the district.

North Somerset Council, which is behind the proposals, is expecting more than 6,000 new homes to be built in and around Weston in the next 15 years, and needs to rethink the education system to cope with the increased demand.

Draft proposals include expanding popular and successful schools across multiple sites, moving St Anne’s Primary School in Hewish into a new 210-place campus in West Wick, adding 105 new places at Weston’s Walliscote Primary School and converting Worle schools St Martin’s, Mendip Green and Hillside into primary schools.

But the most radical change - outlined in papers sent to secondary schools, seen by the Mercury - show how headteachers are being asked if they would consider applying for academy status ready to take younger children, aged four to 16, in special units on their sites.

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It is not yet known what the response has been from teachers, but one primary school head, who asked not to be named, urged caution.

She said: “As teachers, our number one priority is always the welfare of pupils, and provided any changes have an ethos of pupil care at their core, it could be a successful idea.

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“But if this is about cost-cutting, or a reactionary move because authorities have been blind-sided by the influx of new housing, and pupils’ attainment and wellbeing suffer, then there will be a huge backlash.”

However, the council document insists any changes will be aimed at fulfilling its vision of ‘21st century learning facilities’ for all pupils.

The detailed draft document says: “New learning facilities will be needed based at the heart of these communities with new school places, pre-school and youth facilities available from the commencement of increased demand.

“North Somerset should look to ensure that all learning establishments within the district are committed to working together to meet the best interests of children and families.”

There are also plans afoot to work with one of the Weston and Worle secondary schools to provide a second site for up to 900 students and expand Broadoak Mathematics and Computing College at a cost of about �5million.

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