Impact to Secondary Education Catchment Areas

Uttlesford has 4 secondary schools, 2 in the towns and 2 in the larger villages. The high school in Saffron Walden (SWCHS) is nationally recognised as one of the leading schools, rated outstanding by Ofsted across the board and so is oversubscribed. Both SWCHS and the Helena Romanes School in Dunmow are already at or exceed the nationally recognised student roll maximums for GCSE achievement, and so have no room for growth. The SWCHS head has also publicly stated that the school roll will not be increasing. Both draw students from the towns they serve and a wider rural area.

Uttlesford District Council’s new home building plan is estimated to bring 1,550 new secondary age (11-16 year old) children into the district. The draft Uttlesford Local Plan proposes to focus the vast majority of new home building into the existing towns of Saffron Walden and Great Dunmow, where there is the least capacity in existing schools. Of the 1,550 new 11-16 year-old students, 950 will live in the existing towns. There will also be an additional 309 sixth-formers from the new housing.

The result is that expensive new secondary or middle schools will need to be built or catchment areas will have to change. Irrespective of where we schools are built, developers have to pay and Essex County Council has a formula for working out how much.

We’ve done our own very detailed analysis settlement by settlement using information from educational reports, Ofsted, the Office of National Statistics, Essex County Council and the group that deals with Essex Priority (catchment) Areas. The map above shows the results of our assessment of how the catchment areas would be likely to change if this were to happen. Click on it to get a bigger image.

Parents will not be happy that they can’t get their children into the schools they want and that their children will have to travel long distances to get to school.

This is one of the reasons that UDC’s evidence has favoured the most sustainable new town approach for the last 5 years; it is better to build the new houses near to jobs, transport, school capacity and other infrastructure. Building new houses in towns that are maxed out and a long way from jobs and schools makes no sense.

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Posted in Education and Schools, Essex County Council, News, Planning, Spotlight Articles, Uttlesford District Council, Uttlesford Local Plan
3 comments on “Impact to Secondary Education Catchment Areas
  1. So do you propose all 3300 houses go in Stansted then because its secondary school has capacity? What about primary places?

  2. So do you propose all 3300 houses get built in stansted mountfitchet then just on the basis that its secondary school has capacity? What about primary school places?

    • Dan Starr says:

      The issue is that there is no plan for education. The National Planning Policy Framework *requires* that items like education, healthcare, highways and jobs be considered as part of the formulation of a Local Plan. Uttlesford District Council hasn’t done this. They have just decided where they want to build and not considered any of these things. This is why they’ve been forced to remove developer provisions for these from the most recent Local Plan update by the bodies that are actually responsible for them. A good example of how it should be done is East Herts – see their Local Plan process: UDC’s process is backwards to this; in effect decide where you want to build then build some evidence to support it. They have even admitted it was a political decision and not one based on evidence.

      The upshot is that with 1,200 new secondary age students moving into the district, school places will need to be found somewhere. There are a number of options such as increasing existing school capacity, building new schools or shipping students across the border into Herts, Cambridgeshire or Suffolk. All of these can be done irrespective of where the new houses are built – it just makes the bus and car trips longer for children if school places are distant from homes. That is one of the reasons that the current dispersed housing plan scored low on sustainability – the houses are a long way from anywhere their occupants need to be. It can be done, but it forces much more traffic though other settlements as people go to work and school.

      Irrespective of how the education problem is solved, there will be catchment area changes. The SWCHS has said the High School is full and he won’t add any more to the roll, but he would consider building a new school. But a new school is still a catchment area change, even if run by the same trust – and how will a new school be built if the developer provisions to fund it have been removed. Helena Romanes is in a similar position, probably even more so given the scale of development in Dunmow.
      Primary schools are a simpler issue. They are cheaper to build and can be funded off around 800 houses not the many 1,000s required for a secondary school.

      UDC should have considered education and they didn’t. All we have done is point out the inconvenient truth that they have hidden from tax payers – our children need to be educated and a plan is required.

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