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'Expansion plans are forced on us' say schools
CONCERNS have been raised that schools are being given “no choice” but to agree to Oxfordshire County Council’s plans to create more school places.
Parents, teachers and governors have expressed their fears during the county’s consultation on plans to find an additional 500 pupil spaces in Oxford.
County cabinet member for education Melinda Tilley was challenged at a meeting after claiming schools earmarked for expansion could refuse to take part.
The meeting at New Marston Primary School was told people were “increasingly uneasy” about consultations over plans to expand 13 city schools.
Mrs Tilley sought to re-assure school representatives that they still had a say in the process, at the meeting organised by the Conservative Party last month.
New Marston faces a doubling of its original intake of 210 by the time the process is completed in 2015.
Head Zara D’Archambaud said: “At the time we did not feel we have any choice in it.
“I think it needs to be very clear that if parents and staff are against it, it will stop.”
Speaking after the meeting, Mrs Tilley said: “I was shocked because I thought it had been a thorough consultation and I thought the senior leadership team and governors were on side with that.
“Schools need to know that they have a choice. I don’t think we should be doing it to them, I think we should be doing it with them.
“I do accept there has been a breakdown in communication, and we’re talking about what we can do about that.”
The council started consulting on plans to find additional spaces in 2011.
Governors said they didn’t feel confident in the consultation process, and felt the expansion plans were already a “done deal”.
Stephanie Jones is a parent governor at Windmill Primary in Headington, where her children Marianne, seven, and Matthew, five, are pupils. Windmill is being asked to increase its numbers from 480 to 620, but Mrs Jones said parents were concerned their views would be ignored.
She told the Oxford Mail: “I think some people feel like they might be able to give their views, but the council will make a decision regardless of the objection.
“I don’t know if there’s any objection we could raise which would actually change the mind of the council.
“The expansion is being presented as the best option, and it’s almost like we don’t have any other option.”
She said a petition had been launched against the expansion of Windmill, with objectors hoping it might be taken more seriously than consultation responses.
At the meeting, Mrs Tilley said she did not know what would happen if schools refused to take on more children.
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