EDUCATION chiefs are pressing ahead with adding 120 places to an Oxford primary school despite strong opposition.
Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet voted on Tuesday to publish a statutory notice and move to formal consultation on its proposals for Windmill Primary School, in Margaret Road, Headington.
The council wants to add 120 places to the school’s roll, but concerns have been raised that children at an expanded school could be taught in temporary buildings.
At earlier meetings, parents said children were already being forced to take extra reading lessons in corridors and complained that the school buildings were too small to cope with more pupils.
Chairman of governors Mayte Siswick said: “Should the expansion go ahead, it’s absolutely vital that everything is done to make sure an enlarged school continues to be a success.
“It’s also vital that the experiences of the children at the school in the future, both in terms of the school culture and the conditions for teaching and learning, are equal to the very positive experience children have there today.
“We’re willing to work with the local authority, but we will fight if we feel that the school’s needs are not being met.”
Windmill is one of several primary schools in the city earmarked for expansion to provide 500 extra places after a surge in births in the city four years ago.
The council’s cabinet member for education, Melinda Tilley, previously admitted the council could force expansion on Windmill. It could become the only three-form-entry primary in the county if the plans go ahead.
Residents have raised concerns about the impact a larger school would have on Headington’s already busy roads and transport services, an issue which Rodney Rose, the council’s cabinet member for transport, has vowed to investigate.
Parents argue that children’s learning will suffer in a larger school, but the claim that big schools offered a second-class education was dismissed by councillors from all parties.
Labour group leader and Barton & Churchill councillor Liz Brighouse – whose husband Professor Sir Tim Brighouse is a former chief education officer in Oxfordshire and Birmingham – said there was “almost certainly” the need for another school in Headington, but said large schools should not be criticised.
She said: “The reasons these schools do well is they have larger budgets. I have no problem with the issue of the school expansion, and I do think people have to look at all the evidence.
“I do believe that whatever decision is made, Lynn Knapp and her staff will continue to run Windmill as a successful school.”
Mrs Tilley called for a traffic survey, and added: “I have been to look at the school and the hall will be too small and the kitchen area will be too small, so there are things we need to do. I’m aware that parents are upset about this but the alternative is to bus and taxi children around.”
Consultation on the proposal will be launched early next year.