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Primary school places crisis looms in Bridgwater
A SCHOOL places crisis is looming over Bridgwater with at least two new primary schools needing to be built in the next four years to accommodate the town's rapid growth.
According to figures from Somerset County Council, the demand for primary school places in Bridgwater from 2009 to 2018 has grown by 36%, compared to only 13% for Somerset as a whole.
In 2009 there were 4,614 primary school places needed for Bridgwater. That number has risen to 5,547 in 2014.
By 2018 the demand for primary school places in Bridgwater is projected to grow by an additional 771 places to 6,258.
High birth rates, large housing developments and a changing economic landscape have led to the increased demand for school places in the centre of town.
Fewer families are moving out of Bridgwater and into the villages as they cannot afford to drive their children to school every day.
Somerset County Council and Sedgemoor District Council have been working with developers to try accommodating this rising demand.
A new school, called Willowdown Primary Academy, is set to open in north-east Bridgwater this September with 150 children, with plans to expand to 210 children.
Many other schools across Bridgwater have been expanding to accept more children, including Bridgwater College Academy, North Petherton Primary School and St Mary's School.
However both the district and county councils recognise that there is a need for at least one more school, possibly two, in Bridgwater.
Julia Ridge, strategic manager for school commissioning at Somerset County Council, said: “We are conscious of the need that we do need a new school in Bridgwater. The challenge is finding the land to build the school on.
“We have got ideas but all the suggestions so far have been in the wrong place. There's no point in winding locals up who don't want a school there or getting parents excited who do want a school next door.”
Nick Tait, planning policy manager at Sedgemoor District Council, said: “We are looking at a new primary school at the old cattle market in north Bridgwater. The difficulty is the lag between securing financial contributions and physically putting places in the town.
“There have been additional sites considered on the Wilstock side to cater for the demands there. The schools at North Petherton and Stockmoor cannot be expanded anymore. North Petherton Primary School is as large as Somerset County Council wants it to get. It's a matter of securing a site.”
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