Kirklees Council has been battling the bulge for four years – a pupil population bulge, that is.
An increase in the number of secondary school age children in Huddersfield has meant bigger class sizes while the “bulge” passes through, expected to be after 2023-24.
It was decided the bulge could be accommodated in existing schools as the population boom was only temporary but now the council is looking to increase capacity at North Huddersfield Trust School in Fartown.
The council is set to invest around £3 million to build a new, five-classroom teaching block which will eventually see student places rise from 900 to 1,050.
Last year the council invested £2.7 million to expand Manor Croft Academy in Earlsheaton, Dewsbury, and work is due for completion in April 2023.
Now they have decided to expand North Huddersfield too. The council says the reason it’s chosen to expand the two schools is that major new housing developments are planned nearby. The Fartown school is close to the Bradley Strategic Housing site where hundreds of new homes are planned.
A report to the council’s Cabinet on Wednesday December 21 says: “For four years, a pupil population bulge has been moving through the secondary school phase in Kirklees. Evidence suggests this is a time limited bulge…starting to return to more normal levels after 2023-24.
“Through engagement with secondary schools between 2016 and 2018, it was agreed that this bulge could be managed by the existing school system without creating any new high schools.
“The introduction of one or more new high schools would have required significant capital investment and, with the population peak being temporary, threatened to destabilise the future secondary school system post the bulge period.
“A number of secondary schools have therefore been offering bulge classes for the past three years and further bulge classes will be needed for the next one to two more years.
“It was reported to Cabinet in December 2021 that in two geographical locations the population pressures are expected to continue for a little longer and they are also close to strategic housing development sites which over time will have an upward impact on the demand for school places.
“In these two areas, Dewsbury and North Huddersfield, it is considered prudent to introduce a modest amount of additional secondary school places on a permanent basis.”
If the scheme is given approval, building work at Fartown could take a school year to complete.
Clr Carole Pattison, Cabinet member for learning, aspiration and communities, said: “These are exciting proposals which not only meet the demand for places in North Huddersfield but will also make a long-term difference for so many families.
“Schools are at the centre of their communities. They deliver vital educational, health and well-being activities for children, parents and the wider community.
“North Huddersfield Trust School have been involved in the early design stages of the proposed new classrooms and, subject to approval by Cabinet, we will continue working with them all the way through to completion.
“These works would be a major boost in ensuring young people have the best possible opportunities to achieve well and fulfil their ambitions.
“Meeting the need for places is essential across Kirklees and we’ve been grateful to work with many schools who, like North Huddersfield Trust School, have agreed to accept additional pupils.”