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.