Term starts at Wembley’s newest primary school

Rising birth rates have led to a large spike in demand for primary school places, and the council’s waiting list has spiralled. In a bid to tackle this shortfall, and provide young children with the primary places they need, Brent Council has opened Ashley Gardens Early Learning Centre, the borough’s first temporary primary school.

When Theresa Coote received an application form in the post to send her only son to primary school, she eagerly filled it out and sent it off within the hour.

But a couple of months later she received the devastating news that he hadn’t got a place, and had been put on Brent Council’s lengthy waiting list.

“It was very frustrating and disappointing”, says Theresa. “Robert has always lived in Wembley, yet we saw that there were some people who have just moved to the area and got a place before my child. That was difficult.

“We decided to keep him at the Willow Tree nursery because we didn’t want Robert out of education, but that was costing a fortune. We coped, but it was an expense that we shouldn’t have had to incur.”

Six months later, and her 4-year-old son Robert is happily playing ring-a-ring a roses with his classmates outside at the newly opened Ashley Gardens Early Learning Centre, a two-form primary school in Ashley Gardens, Wembley, opened by Brent Council to ease the chronic shortage of primary school places.

The school has been open for just three weeks, and Theresa says that the effect on her son has been immediate.

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“In these couple of weeks he is coming home writing his name and speaking in proper sentences.

“He lacked confidence, but now he is getting on really well with other students. In the last two weeks he is like a different boy entirely.”

Robert is one of 48 children at the school, where he is taught by a team of eight.

Spread over a series of large, bright and airy rooms which back on to a large playing field, the school does not look like your ‘typical’ temporary building.

Drawings by the pupils of themselves smiling at their new school line the walls, and children are busy playing with number puzzles and their playdough models.

It is expected that the school will stay open for a year, after that, its students will move to neighbouring Preston Manor High School, which is expanding to take primary students for the first time.

Some 64 reception aged children have yet to be offered a place, and the council is planning to expand Newfield and Brentfield Primary Schools, in Longstone Avenue, Harlesden, and Meadow Garth, Stonebridge, as well as Preston.

Yet even with these bigger schools, Brent will need an estimated 840 primary places by September 2015.

This could mean that temporary schools like Ashley Gardens could become a lot more common.

While permanent primary schools are the ideal, Mrs Joyeeta Majumdar, the head at Ashley Gardens, insists that nothing about her temporary school is second rate.

She said: “I think high expectations make a big difference. When children come to school for the first time they learn any things. They learn to read and write, but also how to behave and socialise.

“We are organising coffee mornings. Sometimes parents feel a bit insecure, especially if this is their first child, so supporting them is very important.

“This ethos, combined with our excellent facilities, makes a great school.”