Labour MP accuses Brent Council of putting school places before pupils' education
PUBLISHED: 06:45 17 February 2016
A Labour MP has accused Brent Council of prioritising new places over pupils' education by planning to increase a primary school into one of the biggest in the country.
Barry Gardiner, who represents Brent North, has concerns with the government over the council’s proposal to more than double the places at Byron Court Primary School from 630 to 1,050 pupils.
The school in Spencer Road, North Wembley, will increase from three to five form entry with an additional nursery, despite 90 per cent of respondents to a consultation being opposed against the plans.
Last week Mr Gardiner visited the Department for Education with Martin Dickens, chairman of the Parents Against Byron School Expansion and Suzanne D’Souza, chairwoman of the Sudbury Court Residents Association, to set out objections on educational grounds to the proposed expansion.
The visit was made days after Mr Gardiner wrote to Cllr Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council, asking that the cabinet rejects the proposal at its next meeting.
Mr Gardiner said: “The officers from Brent Council appeared more concerned with their statutory obligation to provide new school places than with the negative educational impact the proposed expansion to Byron Court would have on pupils.
“I will be writing a further letter to the Department for Education to formally set out the questions myself and my constituents will need answers by Brent council and Byron Court.”
The council gave the green light to the expansion plans in March last year despite a protest by parents and residents who delivered petitions to the council totalling 1,000 signatures.
An informal consultation carried out by the governing body of the primary school received 334 responses, 90 per cent of which were against the expansion.
Their issues including increased class sizes, rotas for lunchtime and play, high pupil turnover, and a focus on crowd control.
Mr Dickens said: “I got the impression the council will push it through regardless of what we say. Last year they didn’t acknowledge any of the educational issues I raised.”
Ms D’Souza added: “The council pushed through the proposal without even addressing the parents concerns. They still haven’t addressed those concerns. They make out it’s just about traffic but it’s much more than that.”
A spokesman for Brent Council said: “The expansion of Byron Court will offer more Brent children the opportunity to have an outstanding education at a school which has had an excellent Ofsted rating.
“We are concerned with our statutory obligations but we do not believe there will be a negative educational impact, and the decision to expand the school to provide extra places is not being reviewed.”