As the new term starts, families across England are struggling to secure a place at their preferred choice of school. With the population rising, London Councils estimate that nearly half a million new school places are urgently needed across the UK. In response, leading housebuilder the Berkeley Group is opening three new schools this September.
Located in areas where there is an acute shortage of school places, the three new schools are Kensington Primary Academy at its 375 Kensington High Street development in London, Warfield C. of E. Primary School in Berkshire as part of the Woodhurst Park development and The Wells Free School in Tunbridge Wells Kent, part of the Royal Wells Park scheme.
A total of £22.5m is being invested in these schools, providing a total of nearly 800 places for local children, alongside state of the art facilities and space for recreation and sports.
The school place shortage comes at a critical time for the country, with local authorities seeing their budgets drastically reduced. The effect of these cuts is most apparent in the capital, with London boroughs having to fund nearly 50% of new school places from their own resources. To meet this demand, local authorities are increasingly looking to housebuilders and making new schools a part of the planning requirement for developers.
While many housebuilders select to make a funding contribution, the Berkeley Group has taken a proactive approach and is building these schools within the developments as part of their wider commitment to create successful places and offer tangible benefits to local residents.
Tony Pidgley CBE, Chairman of the Berkeley Group, commented:
"Our job is to create communities, not just deliver housing. Families and children deserve great facilities and schools work well as part of the mix on major developments. But I think there is also a balance to be struck. Social infrastructure should not rely solely on developer contributions. Placemaking is something the public and the private sector must fund and deliver together."
In its 2016 New London Villages report, published with the London School of Economics, Berkeley set out a framework for creating successful communities across the capital. Features such as ample green space, primary schools and local shops, as well as events and activities that establish strong local traditions and memories are all highlighted as essential parts of good placemaking. The Berkeley Group has now committed to produce Community Plans for all its sites.