'We need more school places'
PARENTS and residents will have their say on £2.8 million plans to expand two primary schools.
Cheshire East Council is to launch a consultation on proposals to allow more pupils at Pebble Brook Primary, in Crewe, and Wheelock Primary, in Sandbach.
The authority predicts that without the expansion, there will only be eight surplus places across all its primary schools in five years' time.
Councillor Hilda Gaddum, cabinet member for children and family services, authorised officers to begin the statutory consultation process yesterday.
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An officers' report on the issue said the authority had a statutory duty to create sufficient school places for children in its area.
The report states: "Pupil forecasts indicate a shortfall in the number of primary school places due to changing populations and increasing demand in some areas of the borough, resulting in a forecast of only eight spaces across year groups and all primary schools by 2017.
"Proposals are therefore being made for the Sandbach, Crewe and Knutsford areas of the borough to expand existing accommodation to meet the increasing demand in these areas and to ensure a level of operational surplus."
Both schools currently have accommodation for 210 children across seven year groups, and admit 30 new pupils each year.
Following the expansion, the schools would each have capacity for 315 pupils, with 45 admitted every year.
The expansion would involve the construction of three new classrooms at Pebble Brook, and four new classrooms at Wheelock.
These building projects would cost £1.1 million and £1.7 respectively, and would be funded out of the council's capital programme for basic needs.
Once the consultation is carried out, it is anticipated that cabinet members will approve the expansion decision in February 2013.
The schools would then start admitting the extra pupils from next September.
Mrs Gaddum said: "We have seen such an increase in the area's birthrate that we need to expand our schools.
"You only really see what the demand will be once the children reach the age of five.
"Once they're in the system it's easier to predict what the demand will be at age 11.
"We will have a consultation for these schools, and if staff and parents are happy with it, they will be expanded.
"I can certainly see other schools in the area being expanded as well, as schools are under pressure right across the board."