Sunderland parents face scramble for school places

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PRIMARY schools across Wearside are expecting another scramble for places, thanks to the rising birth rate.

Last year, primaries saw a rise in the number of reception children, and numbers are expected to increase again this September and in 2014 – although not by as much as last year.

A report to the members of Sunderland City Council’s cabinet meeting today said: “In line with regional and national trends, Sunderland is observing an increase in its birth rate after a sustained period of decline.”

Last month the Government announced that Sunderland would be getting a grant of £1.6million to fund places in areas which need them most during the next two years.

The cabinet report said officers had identified projected “hot spot” areas where over subscription was likely to happen in 2014, and these are Washington, Hetton, the west of Sunderland and in the city’s faith schools.

It said the authority was in talks with schools about increasing numbers, including Biddick Primary School’s Pan (Published Admission Number) to 45; Easington Lane Primary School’s to 45 and St Joseph’s RC Primary, Sunderland, to 45.

For the 2013/14 academic year, Bexhill Academy has decided to increase its Pan from 45 to 60, Benedict Biscop Academy from 30 to 35 and Holley Park Academy from 30 to 35.

There will also be a reduction in surplus places in Sunderland north in September this year, with the combining of Bishop Harland Primary School and Hylton Red House Primary.

A new School Admissions Code comes into force this September.

Changes include giving adopted children previously in care the same priority as looked-after children, introducing a national offer day, allowing schools to prioritise the children of staff employed there for two or more years and allowing infant classes to exceed the statutory limit where the 31st child is a twin or child of armed forces personnel.

Other changes include allowing academies to prioritise disadvantaged children who are eligible for the Pupil Premium and allowing schools to take direct applications from parents to help reduce delays once term has started.

Cabinet members were asked to agree that the admissions scheme for 2014 should mirror 2013.