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Menston's new homes will build extra pressure on schools
EVEN Princess Anne noticed the problem on her fleeting visit to Ilkley Grammar School two weeks ago. She told head teacher Gillian James she was surprised such a limited site on Cowpasture Road could accommodate 1,500 pupils.
The Princess Royal, along with the rest of Wharfedale, would be seriously mystified by the problem of all the extra pupils the school will have to cope with in the next few years.
With more than 900 new homes planned for the village of Menston, the problem of oversubscribed schools will become even more acute.
A total of 560 new homes will be constructed on the site of the former High Royds Psychiatric Hospital, and a further 350 are expected to be built in the Derry Hill and Bingley Road area of Menston.
The High Royds development is in Leeds City Council's catchment area so the expected extra school children should be allocated to Leeds schools. Derry Hill and Bingley Road lie within the bounds of Bradford District Council, generating up to another 100 pupils.
As the three developments practically straddle the boundaries between the two councils, officials from Bradford and Leeds will have to work together and share the responsibility in accommodating the new students.
The education authorities are optimistic that new pupils will assimilate into the existing system.
The nightmare scenario is that secondary schools, Ilkley Grammar in particular, could be forced to turn away local pupils.
Currently, many school children from the area enter the Ilkley Pyramid system. Primary schools feed into Ilkley Grammar which stands at the top of the pyramid. But Ilkley Grammar is already heavily subscribed, and it is struggling to meet the needs of the area as it is.
Anthony Mugan, Head of Bradford Council's Education Client Team, said: "We have already taken into account the houses being built at High Royds and we believe there is sufficient capacity in the area."
Mr Mugan conceded that extra financial help would be needed to cope with the rise in school children. He said: "If house-building in Derry Hill and Bingley go ahead we would request a section 106 contribution from the developers towards funding additional places in the primary schools.
"We do not anticipate a problem with secondary school spaces in Ilkley as the underlying birth rate in the area is declining overall. The demand for school places is kept under regular review and we would respond to any future changes in demand as required.
"We are aware that, in addition to demand for places at Bradford schools, a number of children from this area do attend schools in Leeds, which are quite close."
However, the Ilkley Gazette has learned that there is apprehension amongst Bradford's councillors on how the pupils will fit in to its schools.
Wharfedale District Councillor Chris Greaves made it clear the High Royds pupils were not Bradford's responsibility. He said: "High Royds is in Leeds, so it is Leeds's problem. They've got to sort out their children.
"There will be some space for them for the short term in Menston Primary (Bradford), but down the line, Leeds will have to deal with the problem."
Coun Greaves said he realised there would be difficulties. He said: "This is going to be a huge problem. Education officers are looking into it at the minute.
"At the moment Menston is not on the first priority for Ilkley Grammar. But if they were to get priority in the future, who do you take out?"
Only last month the Ilkley Gazette reported how Addingham residents were anxious that their children might become excluded from the catchment area in a shake-up of the boundaries. These rumours were dismissed by Bradford Council.
Many families have moved to the area specifically so that their children can attend Ilkley Grammar. The school is one of the best in a district which is struggling to keep up nationally. In some ways, Ilkley Grammar School could become a victim of its own success.
Menston is the home of another high-flying secondary school, St Mary's, but its capacity to absorb extra pupils is strictly limited because it is a faith school.
Head teacher Mike Pyle said St Mary's was already oversubscribed and admitted very few non-Catholics. "Our mission is to provide places for Catholic children of the Wharfedale Deanery which stretches from Ilkley to Horsforth and Pudsey," said Mr Pyle.
He said that it was more common for St Mary's sixth form to take children of other faiths because of the courses on offer.
In Leeds, officials have already been engaged on the number crunching exercise in anticipation of the expected influx of pupils.
A spokesman for Education Leeds said: "We monitor all residential developments and trends across the city and its boundaries to ensure that our school network meets the needs of all our communities "We have examined the likely numbers of children who will live in the High Royds development, and thanks to our flexible network and some existing surplus places we are confident that our schools can cope with the extra pressure for places.
"If there is a need for additional provision in our schools to meet the combined demand from the High Royds, Derry Hill and Bingley Road developments, we can seek funds from developers to pay any capital costs attached."
A statement from Education Leeds added: "The development at High Royds of 560 units which includes 232 family units would typically generate about 60 primary and 25 secondary age children when complete.
"It is anticipated that the majority of the primary school aged children will want to attend school in Menston village, and Bradford LEA is planning accordingly.
"There are also places available at our Guiseley primaries and we will monitor what pressure is put on admissions to those schools, especially the effect an increase in applications from these developments may have on families applying for these schools from further afield.
"At secondary level both Guiseley High and St Mary's Catholic High schools will be the preferred destinations for the majority of these children.
"Phasing of the housing release and demographic data is being monitored to ensure a timely response to provision in the area."