Education ministers consider solutions to surplus places

By Jon Moreno

Friday, July 11, 2014

 

THE ISSUE of surplus school places at Island schools will be top of the agenda for discussion when three government ministers visit the Isle of Wight next week on a fact-finding mission.

In a letter from Education Secretary Michael Gove to Island councillor Chris Whitehouse, education spokesman for the Conservative group at County Hall, he confirmed the rumour Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools, would be visiting the Island on Thursday.

He will be accompanied by two other government ministers, David Laws, the Minister for Schools, and Edward Timpson, the Minister for Children and Families.

In his letter, Mr Gove said: "Both Lord Nash and I are keenly interested in schools on the Isle of Wight.

"My department is aware of the issue of surplus school places on the Isle of Wight and my officials are discussing possible solutions with the local authority and the education Funding Agency.

"We expect the Island Free School and the Isle of Wight Studio School will increase parental choice and help to raise overall standards by promoting competition."

Recent statistics showed that there are 3,000 surplus spaces in Island secondary schools and almost 300 at primary schools.

One of the worst affected areas is the West Wight, where there is massive under-demand for primary places, but the Isle of Wight Council's executive member for children's services, Cllr Richard Priest, already stated a major reorganisation of primary schools was not anticipated.

Cllr Whitehouse, director of the Westminster Education Forum, said: "It’s a demonstration of the keen interest the government is taking in Island schools and children’s services, with no less than three ministers coming to check the facts for themselves.

"I very much hope the Education Funding Agency and Education Department officials will get to grips with the projections of demand and surplus capacity on the Island so we can ensure our schools are fit for purpose."

Reporter: jonm@iwcpmail.co.uk

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