Work is well underway on the transformation of a number of Hampshire schools to ensure they are ready to meet increasing demand for school places from September 2014.
Hampshire County Council's Executive Lead Member for Children's Services and the Executive Member for Education (Councillor Keith Mans and Councillor Peter Edgar) visited schools in Romsey, Eastleigh and Whiteley to see how the County Council's multi-million pound investment is making a difference.
Councillor Mans commented: "Over the next few years, across the county, we are providing 8000 additional primary school places in areas of high demand with a planned investment of £165 million. Our objective is to deliver quality education locally, that is to say, near to where children live and where parents want them to go to school. The investment we are making to transform and expand existing schools and in building new schools will enable the demand for school places across Hampshire to be met easily. Pupils will benefit from high quality learning environments in which to be taught and maximise their potential."
First stop for the Cabinet Members was at Cupernham Infant and Junior Schools in Romsey, where £4 million has been invested in the schools to extend them, remodel existing teaching space and provide specialist teaching facilities and learning resources to include capacity for special educational needs and areas where practical work can be enjoyed. Improvements to outdoor play and learning areas will also be made. Work was completed ready for the start of the Autumn Term, creating an additional 210 primary school places.
From Romsey to Eastleigh where construction work is due to start in the near future on the expansion of the Crescent Primary School, at a cost of £5.6 million. This will create a three form entry school to provide an additional 210 places, catering for a total of 630 pupils. Work is planned to compete during the 2014/15 academic year in advance of the increase in pupil numbers in the catchment. The project will create nine new classrooms. Improvements and reconfiguration of the existing teaching spaces are among the plans, together with a new main hall, entrance, reception, toilets, and staff accommodation. Children will also be able to enjoy improved play areas.
Commenting on the visits, Councillor Edgar said: "It has been good to see how, with our investment, Hampshire's existing education facilities will be adapted to meet the need for primary school places and to see that these schools are benefiting from the work of our exceptional architects. The enthusiasm that the school communities have for the expansions and improvements that are being made is inspiring."
He added: "In 2013, across the county, just under 98 per cent of families were offered a place at one of their preferred schools. As we map projected demand for future years, we will continue to work with all schools to ensure there is a place for all Hampshire primary school children."
The councillors also took the opportunity to visit the new Cornerstone Primary School in Whiteley. Prompted by Winchester City Council';s plans to bring forward the north Whiteley development area for housing, the Portsmouth and Winchester Dioceses proposed establishing a one form entry Church of England Voluntary Aided primary school, with widespread community support. Hampshire County Council took the scheme forward and the new school opened its doors on 3 September 2013.
Councillor Mans said: "Cornerstone is a good example of how we have worked with the community to meet the demand for school places arising from new housing developments bringing more young families into the area. The quality of accommodation is excellent and I can see that, in the future, we will be able to build from this to meet further increased demand in this area, arising from new homes that are yet to be built. I would like to congratulate our own in house strategic planning and design teams who have delivered all of these projects on time and on budget."