To note any requests to speak on any items that are on the agenda in accordance with the Council’s Public Speaking Scheme (see footnote to this agenda).
Councillor Izzi Seccombe (Leader of the Council and Chair of Cabinet) welcomed two members of the public to speak.
1) Zoe Holynska (speaking regarding agenda item 8) stated, “I am a full-time mother at the moment but am a secondary and A level teacher by profession. Today I want to bring to your attention the gap in adequate primary school provision for children currently aged 6 to 11 within Nuneaton North and East. I just want to start by outlining my family’s situation. We moved to Weddington from Worcestershire just before Christmas and our youngest daughter, now in year one, got a place at Weddington Primary.
Unfortunately, there are no places locally for our older son, now in year 2. Lower Farm Academy, the school being built for the purpose of dealing with the increased demand for school places in the area, currently only caters for year one and reception pupils. After a failed appeal to get him into Weddington Primary, we accepted a place at Whitestone Infant School, on the other side of Nuneaton. It has placed a great deal of strain on our family having two drop-offs and pick-ups on different sides of town with frequent traffic congestion to exacerbate the situation. We cannot afford wrap around care and, as a result, often have no other option but to drop one child off late and collect the other early, meaning valuable school time is being missed by both children. As I am sure you will agree, this is not fair on any child as it is likely to have a long-term, detrimental impact on their learning and cause unnecessary disruption to lessons. I am fully aware that for families without a car, the situation must be even worse. Furthermore, our son's time at Whitestone will be coming to an end at the end of this academic year, as it is an infant school. Being out of catchment of any junior school, this puts our son and family in a very unpleasant situation.
Figures that we have obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show that there is a significant current shortfall of places for older year groups in this area. As an example, for year two, the waiting list for Weddington Primary has eight pupils, Milby Primary, five and St Nicholas C of E Academy, seven. To add to this, there are over 100 children in the CV10 and CV11 area being home-schooled, some of whom it is likely a consequence of inadequate local schooling options. From the data that we obtained, we can see that already many existing local schools have had to increase class sizes above 30 to cater for demand. In year four at Weddington, they have already taken on 6 extra pupils, meaning class sizes of 33. This situation will only worsen as further planned housing is built, which will in turn affect more families and put pressure on established local primary schools. Added to the still growing development in Weddington, another is due to start shortly in Whitestone, where the schools are currently absorbing the overflow from Weddington and other new-build areas.
As I am sure you are aware, the construction of Lower Farm Academy is now underway and set for completion on the 27th August next year. Once built, the school has the space to open classes to cater for the children and families that are currently being left without adequate schooling options. Classrooms will be standing unused, which is appalling when you consider the demand and the impact that it is having on so many families and children within the area. We would like to back Cllr Keith Kondakor in his efforts to open-up further year groups within the school. This would put an end to the difficult and unfair situation that many local families and young children have been placed in. If class sizes are initially too small to make this option attractive, the possibility of combining year groups, as they do in many small rural primary schools, could be an alternative.
2) Susan Rasmussen (speaking regarding agenda item 6 addressed he meeting partly as Mayor of Leamington. She stated that one of the outcomes of the public consultation exercise on the Leamington Local Plan had been strong evidence that people want more cycleways to be created. A cycleway along the Emscote Road would be very popular. Speaking in her role as Chair of Clean Air for Leamington, she informed the meeting that she and that organisation endorses the governments stated aim of increasing cycling. Cabinet was thanked for considering the proposed improvements along the Emscote Road and it was noted that it can be quicker to cycle between Warwick and Leamington (or vice versa) than to drive and have to find somewhere to park.
Councillor Seccombe thanked the speakers for their contributions and invited them to remain in the meeting to hear the debate on the areas in which they were interested.