Two Colne secondary schools to increase their pupil intake
Pupil numbers at two secondary schools in Colne are set to grow in order to head off a shortfall in school places in Pendle.
Lancashire’s County Council’s cabinet has approved plans to increase the number of year 7 children admitted to Colne Primet Academy from 165 to 210 and Ss John Fisher and Thomas More Roman Catholic High School from 160 to 180.
The changes will be introduced on a temporary basis from the 2022/23 academic year, becoming permanent 12 months later – although the proposal for Colne Primet Academy will be subject to a consultation as it is deemed a “significant enlargement”. The move will also require approval from the Regional Schools Commissioner, because of the school’s academy status.
Cabinet members were told that pressure on places was the result of “unprecedented levels of inward migration” of senior school age pupils and a high primary school population poised to move through to the borough’s secondary schools.
It is forecast that in September 2022, there will be an intake of 1,175 pupils for high schools in Pendle – but there are currently only 1,125 places available. Although the secondary school population is forecast to fluctuate in subsequent years, it is anticipated that there would be insufficient places every year through to 2028 without the planned changes.
The expansions will require new facilities to be built at both schools. Colne Primet’s Dent Street site will see the construction of an additional standalone building of between 12 and 15 classrooms, plus an enlargement of the dining facilities. Work will also be carried out to create a two-classroom special educational needs unit within the academy’s existing buildings, after cabinet also approved a separate plan to install such a facility for up to 16 pupils.
Ss John Fisher and Thomas More RC High’s Gibfield Street base requires an additional six-classroom building, which will include space for science – as well as increased dining provision.
Neither set of works is expected to be completed prior to the initial increase in pupils next September, meaning temporary facilities will have to be installed, likely for a 12-month period.
Labour opposition group leader Azhar Ali welcomed the additional places, but said that some families were already struggling with lengthy school runs as a result of a shortage of places in the academic year which has just begun.
He urged the authority to consider laying on dedicated transport for those children in Nelson and Brierfield who have been allocated places at West Craven High School, some ten miles away. The meeting heard that some pupils from as far away as Burnley had also been offered places at the Barnoldswick school.
“[The council is] suggesting that we pay for bus passes, but for some kids it [means] changing two buses – and they would have to leave, one parent said, at 6.30 in the morning to get there on time. I think that’s unacceptable,” said County Cllr Ali, who added that a lot of the affected pupils were migrants whose parents did not necessarily speak English and had concerns over their children’s safety.
“We are going to have a significant number of kids who will not go to that school and will wait for [pupils] to leave other schools – and that’s not going to happen either.”