Primary schools will be built and expanded in North Yorkshire on a scale unprecedented in recent years in an effort to avert a places crisis.
A programme to create 3,200 places, including 1,700 which are needed by September 2017, at a cost of almost £40 million is due to be given the go-ahead by county councillors.
The county council has described the project as ‘a primary school expansion programme on a scale not seen in North Yorkshire for many years’.
Suzanne Firth, the county council’s strategic planning manager, said: “We have surplus capacity in rural areas where village primaries are struggling for pupils and big growth in the towns which is where all the main housing growth is going and that’s leading to a big demand on primary schools.”
Final decisions have yet to be taken on how the places will be provided although some entirely new schools are likely to be needed in the coming years.
A report to be considered by senior councillors describes Harrogate as a ‘hot spot’ where existing primaries will need to be expanded in the short term and ‘one or more’ new schools will be required if housing developments go ahead.
New schools could also be needed in Knaresborough and Northallerton.
Catterick Garrison could see a net increase of between 100 and 400 children depending on decisions over the basing of military units there.
Growing the number of school places involves spending on kitchens, playgrounds and other facilities as well as additional classrooms.
Mobile classrooms will be used where the demand is judged to be ‘temporary’ but schools will be permanently expanded ‘where there is evidence of sustained need’.
The costs of the programme currently being considered by the council would be met by funding from the Government with the county also securing contributions from housing developers.
‘The demand will continue to rise strongly beyond 2018’, the report going before councillors next week says.
While there is no need to grow the county’s secondary schools in the next three years because of surplus places ‘this will follow in the future’.
Arthur Barker is NYCC executive member for schools, 16-19-year-old education, and early years provision.
He said: “There is population growth because of housing developments and so on in Harrogate. Basically that is one of the reasons why we will have to address the issue in Harrogate more than some other parts of the county.
“This is something we are aware of and we are dealing with it, and it is an issue that is occuring across the country and we monitor the situation in North Yorkshire constantly.
“The situation is definitely in primary schools. We are aware of the pressures in certain areas and this report is dealing with that.”