The developments in Blythe ward, especially in and near Cheswick Green and Dickens Heath quite naturally cause concern about the numbers of school spaces, especially by parents of school aged children or soon to be school aged. I hope to allay fears and address some comments made to me at the recent public consultation relating to Blythe Valley Park and also on the local Facebook sites.
It is important to state at the outset that developers are not responsible for school places; this is the responsibility of the local authority. However, they are not immune to the pressures resulting from the additional children such developments bring. There is a rough guide/formula relating to numbers of school pupils and housing numbers. A guide of 25 primary school children and 25 secondary school children for every 100 new houses is used when planning for additional school places. It can therefore be assumed that around 187 primary aged and 187 secondary aged school pupils might need placing in schools just as a result of the proposed development in Blythe valley Park.
In addition to this developers of large sites, such as Blythe Valley Park, contribute to funding school places via a fund called Section 106 Agreements. For the development at Mount Dairy Farm (off Tanworth Lane), Bloor Homes were made to enter into an agreement to contribute the following sums of money to meet education needs:
- A contribution of £764,284.16 towards secondary school education.
- A contribution of £667,393.65 towards primary school education
You will see that just for the 220 homes on Mount Dairy Farm a substantial amount of money (£1,431,677:81) is paid by developers to meeting the additional education needs brought about by new housing. We can therefore expect IM Properties (who are expected to submit a formal planning application in due course) to contribute an even significant sum for the additional school spaces that may result if their proposals are eventually approved.
Schools in Blythe ward and neighbouring area:
There are four schools within the ward and one neighbouring school I have looked into. There are Monkspath J&I, Cheswick Green Primary, Tidbury Green School, St Patricks and Hockley Heath Primary. I have sought information regarding school spaces, especially the numbers of children at our schools who live outside the immediate catchment area and who live outside the borough of Solihull.
In respect of Cheswick Green Primary School (a one form entry school), out of 224 pupils on the school roll some 36 come from outside Solihull with another 44 from outside the school catchment area. This means that about a third of pupils come from somewhere else than Cheswick Green.
Monkspath Junior and Infant School has even more pupils who do not live in Monkspath, with just 331 of its 679 pupils residing in the catchment area and 59 travelling to the school from out of Solihull. This represents about one half of the pupils do not live in Monkspath.
In Tidbury Green just 14 of its 221 pupils reside in Tidbury Green and this is similar to St Patricks School where 7 of its 230 pupils live in its catchment area.
Nearby Hockley Heath Primary have a bigger percentage of pupils living in its catchment but still has about 40% of its 227 pupils residing elsewhere than Hockley Heath.
I recognise data for Dickens Heath School is not shown. I have asked for this and will update this report.
It therefore transpires that about 20% of school spaces in the immediate area within Blythe ward are filled from pupils who do not live in Solihull. When all totals of out of catchment pupils are counted for each school it gives us some 40% of pupils attending schools not in their Solihull catchment area. We need to be very careful with this statistic because some of these pupils may still live in the Blythe ward area, for instance, Cheswick Green children attending Monkspath and vice versa. It is still significant that 313 pupils who attend schools in Blythe ward and Hockley Heath village (out of a total of 1581 pupils) do not reside in Solihull.
It is the case that there is significant space for Blythe ward pupils in schools within the ward they reside. However, where additional problems arise is when new people come to live in the area and year groups for some pupils are full. That is not unique and is a problem many families encounter when moving home.
We can deduce that any development within Tidbury Green should allow those new pupils moving into that area to attend their local school. In respect of the development at Mount Dairy Farm, new pupils should be accommodated at Cheswick Green Primary. However, the new pupils planned for Blythe Valley Park need careful consideration, not only to allow those children and young people a right to attend local schools but also protect the needs of current residents of Cheswick Green Village and llshaw Heath.
The criteria for school places are shown below. This is a brief description with a link to the council webpage shown.
Priority One: Looked after children in the care of a local authority (eg foster care).
Priority Two: Junior applications: a Children attending a linked infant school b Children living in the catchment area
Priority Three: Children who have an older brother or sister at the school at the same time.
Priority Four: Children living outside the catchment area measured in a straight line from the child’s home to school
The admission criteria for Schools in Solihull can be viewed via this link: http://www.solihull.gov.uk/Resident/Schools-learning/schooladmissions/admissionscriteria
It is vital a catchment area is designated for future children arising from the new development on Blythe Valley Park. To meet this aim I have already communicated with Solihull Council School Admission Officers and obtained the date in relation to the placements at our local schools. I am a governor at Monkspath Junior and Infant School and will liaise with all schools in the ward to address any resulting issues. I will naturally feed back to residents.
I hope I have gone some way to allay fears and concerns, at least in the short term, but please do not hesitate to contact me for any clarification or anything that I may have missed. I have drawn up this report taking into consideration what I know about the planning proposals to date. Once any planning application is formally submitted to Solihull Council we will know what developers intend and the needs for education of our new children.