Oxmoor set to benefit from �500m Gove school places funding

THONGSLEY Fields and St John’s Schools in Huntingdon could be among the first to benefit from an injection of Whitehall cash aimed at addressing a shortage of pupil places.

Cambridgeshire County Council is to get �10.2million extra funding from the Government from an extra �500m announced last week by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Although the county welcomed the contribution to its capital schools programme for 2012/13, the cabinet member responsible, Councillor David Harty from St Neots, warned that the council still had to find the balance of the �30-40m that would be needed next year.

“This will help in providing places in some areas, including Thongsley, where we have particular pressures,” he told The Hunts Post.

Huntingdonshire schools were to have been included in the next phase of the previous Government’s Building Schools for the Future programme from the first phase of which Fenland and Cambridge city have benefited. But the coalition Government abandoned the scheme shortly after taking office as being too expensive and bureaucratic.

What the council is now waiting for is Mr Gove’s announcement – probably in December or January – on national schools funding.

“We have put a case [to Government] for that to focus on areas of greatest need, where the birth rate is increasing,” Cllr Harty said.

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Cambridgeshire is the fastest-growing area of the country.

“Also, schools funding has to go towards academies, and we would like to see it increased, since most of our secondary schools are now academies.

“The secondary schools now have almost full control [of their own finances and management] but it’s important that we keep a good relationship, because most of our primary schools are not academies. And the secondary schools are buying services from us.

“It has all worked through very quickly – perhaps too quickly – though I think they are starting to get on top of it, and it’s time now to reach some conclusions,” he added.

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

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.

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.”