Parents fear ‘supersize’ primary schools, says Netmums

Source from –  BBC News education correspondent by Sean Coughlan

 Parents are worrying that a shortage of places is creating “supersize” primary schools, according to the Netmums website. A surge in the birth rate in some areas has meant a rapid expansion of schools, with temporary classrooms added. A survey of mothers’ experiences on Netmums found concerns about children being “overwhelmed” at big schools.

Parents reported their reservations about primary schools that in some cases now had more than 700 pupils. “The rising birth rate means we are seeing the birth of mega primaries,” said Netmums’ founder, Siobhan Freegard.

Official forecasts last month showed that an extra 450,000 primary places will be needed in England between 2010 and 2015. Many local authorities are under pressure to find room for such an expansion – such as building temporary “bulge” classrooms.

But the Netmums website says there is disquiet among parents – with fears that expansion will change the character of primary schools and the pressure on places will make it harder to get a first choice place.More than a thousand parents contributed to a discussion about the places shortage. Although not a representative sample, it showed parents voicing concerns about schools with a one-form entry becoming schools with a two- or three-form entry. In some cases, parents said there were now up to five primary classes in a single year.

“It can make smaller children feel overwhelmed,” said one of the Netmums contributors, who expressed concern about less attention to individual pupils and fears about bullying and gangs.

“I think that big schools will definitely affect some children, especially quiet, less confident kids,” wrote another.

“Our city has increased so much in the last six-seven years, but building one more small school was nowhere near enough judging by the struggle for places.”

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