County gets �10.2 million cash to build classrooms

CAMBRIDGESHIRE schools are to get �10.2 million extra funding from the Government - to address the shortage of pupil places.

Education Minister Michael Gove announced today that the county would be among 100 benefiting from an extra �500 million to provide more school places.

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert who had joined MPs from across Cambridgeshire to campaign for extra funding and raise the issue in the House of Commons, welcomed the “good news for Cambridge and Cambridgeshire as a whole”.

He said: “It goes some way to addressing the major shortfall in funding which puts the county’s schools near the bottom of the pile compared to other local authorities across the country.

“Even with this payment, however, the county is still �25 million short of the national average and we cannot afford to be complacent.

“But in allocating this money, the Minister has recognised that our region is experiencing rapid growth and that we are facing a severe shortage of school places in the city and across the county.”

Mr Gove said there was “urgent need” for pupil places after the Office for National Statistics updated its projections for population growth last week.

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It found previous projections had underestimated the level of growth and that by 2020 there would be around 21 per cent more primary age children in the UK than in 2010.

In the Cambridge area there has long been problems with finding enough places for primary school children with children having to travel to nearby schools including Hardwick Community Primary School.

And the rapid growth of Cherry Hinton has seen seven new classrooms built at Colville Primary School this year creating 240 new places at the beginning of the 2011-12 academic year.

Portfolio holder for education at Cambridgeshire County Council Cllr David Harty said: “We have been getting over most of our problems with admissions but certainly additional funding in order of �10 million will help us with our capital programme.

“Cambridge city remains an area of huge growth as well as Huntingdon and St Neots.”

Liberal Democrat Peter Downes, Cambridgeshire County Council’s shadow portfolio holder for education said: “Our schools have suffered from years of under-funding by successive governments and finally steps are being taken to address that.”

Chairman of Cambridge Labour Party Daniel Zeichner said he was “sceptical” about the extra funding.

He said: “Mr Gove scrapped Labour’s school building programme which would have seen major improvements for schools like Chesterton Community College and Manor Community College.

“From that huge cut he has reinstated a small amount and that doesn’t count as ‘extra’ in my book.

“The real story was revealed by the independent Institute of Fiscal Studies last week who showed that education spending will fall by 13 per cent over the next four years – the biggest cut for more than half a century.”