UPDATED – Secondary School in Molesey?
The idea of a new secondary school in Molesey has been floated by various parties over the last 3 years or so. This has been raised with officers at Surrey County Council, but does not feature in any part of the County’s plans for school expansion. At the same time, although the County is obliged to help fund secondary school expansion when it is ‘Academy’, (but not if it is ‘Free-School’), the County has no authority to build new secondary schools and is barrred from doing so by central government. The County is totally responsible for funding normal state primary schools. The current schools expansion and new build which the County is funding with about 20% provided by the government, is costing some £400million. Other than the government’s minor contribution, most of this funding is by effective mortgage borrowing over 50 years which is then charged back to the Council Tax .
As far as new building is concerned, the Planning system does not generally allow infrastructure provision or the lack of it, to be a significant factor in granting or refusing permission. Very rarely, a condition is attached for large developments, that building cannot be completed until certain infra-structure is in place. These conditions are now largely irrelevant since developers are charged a tax on developments which is meant to be used to improve or provide infra-structure such as schools or roads.
The County has agreed with the rebuilding and extension of Rydens (Academy) Secondary school in Walton. Whilst this school may not be the most popular choice for Molesey parents, it will meet the criteria for secondary capacity. The other approach by the County has been to encourage the Cobham Free School organisation to establish a ‘Free’ secondary school in Cobham or Esher. Such provision would ease the pressure on Esher High (Secondary) School. This possible attempted provision appears to have been centred on The Fairmile at Cobham and on the Imber Court Police Grounds in East Molesey/Weston Green. Neither appears to have made progress and the future of such provision is now unknown as at July 2015. Please find below the press statement regarding the Cobham Free School, to be clear though the SCC has no plans for a permanent Secondary School in Molesey for now.
Elmbridge Council has no educational powers and is only involved in school provision from a strictly ‘Planning’ permission/refusal situation if the school is not County owned.
County does its own ‘Planning’ function where it owns the school.
Regrettably, there is no forum at County where councillors can openly discuss school building/capacity provision and such matters do not appear on the Education Select/Education Board Committee. County discontinued its previous Asset Panel which dealt with property matters some 2 years ago. Both MRA County Councillors, Stuart Selleck and Ernest Mallett, have raised this lack of allowed democratic provision but at best, they can only make their views known at a private officer meeting and they have found that such matters are regarded as the autocratic right of the County Education Dept. The majority Conservative Group at County seem to be happy with, or at least accept, this situation.
Overall, the MRA advice is that the provision of new houses in Molesey, in the numbers which might get planning permission on the limited availability of possible sites, would not be regarded by County as contributing significantly to the capacity need for school places. In the past, it has been a statistical fact, that new estates do not significantly produce an annual increase in children or not such an increase which cannot be easily absorbed. Currently, there has been and is, a drastic increase in birthrate generally. This has caused the sudden massive increase in school building and expansion to be put in place. It is confidently expected that the present increases in capacity will be adequate to deal with any normal house building programme. This confidence may prove to be mis-placed, but is not something which bears on County policies at the present time as it scrambles to make the sudden increases in the capacity needed now.
At the same time, current government proposals as outlined this last week in July 2015, by George Osborne, are expected to slow the birth rate down as child allowance becomes restricted. Overall, County will review the position once the present building surge has been completed but the forecast appears to be that present capacity provision, which does not entertain a new secondary school in Molesey, will be adequate to deal with what will be required up to 2020 and beyond.