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Dobcroft School Expansion on Hold as Labour and Lib-Dems Battle Over Sheffield Hallam Election

Local / Sheffield Mar 17, 2015 - 05:37 PM GMT

By: N_Walayat


The comings and goings at Dobcroft Infants and Juniors school is in microcosm the crisis in Sheffield school places, where first we had the panic announcement to expand the school by 1/3rd in 2015 and 2016 onwards, which has now been thrown into doubt following city councilors trying to calculate which decision will carry the most votes with the electorate in the crucial Hallam constituency where the Lib-Dem leader, Nick Clegg is literally fighting for his political life to retain his seat.

The city councils earlier panic response as excerpted below has subsequently been met with much stiff resistance from parents of children who have managed to gain a place at the school who now rather selfishly wish to deny other IN CATCHMENT children the same opportunity, for the truth is that there is a LACK of school places at Dobcroft school which means even siblings are denied places at the SAME school!

Of course if the child of campaigning anti-expansion parents had been denied a place then they would be out demonstrating in favour FOR expanding the number of places at Dobcroft school.

Pre-Place at Dobcroft School - "My child should definitely get a place at Dobcroft school regardless of lack of available places, it is our catchment area school so a place must be made for my child regardless".

Post-Place at Dobcroft School - "It is outrageous that the number of places at Dobcroft school are being increased, my child's education will suffer, there should be no increase in school places."

So the whole argument being put forward against expansion is pure selfishness for the fundamental fact that the school does lack enough places to meet the demand from in catchment area children.

09 Feb 2015 - Sheffield School Places Crisis - Labour Council Election Panic Dobcroft Infant 33% Extra Places

Election Year School Places Panic - Dobcroft 33% Increase

Whilst there may still be some snow left outside the gates of many of Sheffield's best state schools but the city council has attempted to blast away the BIG FREEZE in school places that would soon have resulted in parent (voter) outrage by apparently pulling a magic rabbit out of the hat by conjuring 33% extra school places into existence at Dobcroft Infant Schools 2015 intake.

All without any consultation with the School as illustrated by a letter from the Chair of School Governors which states:

“The school was given no choice over the 2015 decision."

“This is being addressed through an ongoing dialogue with senior council officers, through which we have vigorously questioned their decision-making process for both 2015 and 2016."

“This is being addressed through an ongoing dialogue with senior council officers, through which we have vigorously questioned their decision-making process for both 2015 and 2016.

“We share many of your concerns, as parents ourselves, and appreciate that it is a very emotive subject. We remain focused on the key issues and will continue to work tirelessly in the interests of the school pupils.”

This follows some 7 months on from when I wrote that the provision for school places should be created at high demand schools such as Dobcroft, where parents actually wanted to send their children rather than the baldrick-esk policy the Labour run council had implemented. However, clearly this is an obvious election panic move for the extra intake is provisionally only for 2015 and that unlike the expansion of Greystones School which had been well planned for and announced early 2014, the Dobcroft announcement is without any planning on where the extra children will be taught as the school is already stuffed to the rafters with many children near permanently taught in porta cabins.

Whilst the city council has made the right decision to expand the number of places at Dobcroft Infant school by 33%. However the way it has been announced out of the blue within a few months of the general election, all without any consultation with the school or parents reeks of a panic move from preventing the school places crisis from exploding into an major election issue, because as far as I am aware the plans for where the extra 33% of children will go has yet to be worked out which probably means more porta cabins are going to be hastily shipped in over the summer months that just like the existing ones will become a permanent fixture.

Whilst the primary focus of the most recent governors letter is to criticise the Councils unilateral expansion for a 33% intake increase without any prior consultation with the school, parents or with regard to the capacity of the local infrastructure that would have yielded much protest and delay had there been such prior consultation that would not have chimed well with the election time table, as illustrated by this excerpt -

The council should, however, be aware that the absence of any consultation and openness in the decision making process has alienated parents. The lack of trust and sense of betrayal cannot be underestimated. The decision is a short sighted fix to a perceived immediate problem that is not evident from the data. Current forecasts suggest that 2015 will have no greater pressures than 2014. This temporary expansion will result in more ‘out of catchment’ admissions building pressure in later years, due to increased sibling preferences.

Further, my article of Mid February agreed with the decision to expand Dobcroft School with a string of additional possible solutions -

17 Feb 2015 - Sheffield School Places Crisis 2015, Magnitude of Dobcroft Catastrophe Revealed

Solutions to Sheffield's School Places Crisis

Where Sheffield's school places crisis is concerned, if the city council seriously intends on addressing the issue then there three clear solutions -

Short-term - Introduce and enforce penalties for making fraudulent school place applications that includes cancellation of school places no matter when the fraud is discovered and a fixed penalty notice fine.

Short-term - Temporarily expand places at ALL of Sheffield's high demand schools, but to do it in a properly planned manner, not as an election panic move. However the issue here is there is a limit to what sites can be expanded to i.e. roads and local infrastructure.

Long-term - A NEW Primary / Junior school in the high demand area of the city.

Representatives of the school including parents have since been in full fight back mode by attempting to capitalise on politician fears in the face of the impending general election by dragging the Liberal Democrats fully onto their side as local letter boxes are being stuffed full of Lib Dem leaflets attempting to make last minute political gains so as to skew the election outcome their favour despite the fact that both Liberal and Labour are equally guilty of bringing about the current crisis in Sheffield's School places.

Where Nick Clegg is concerned every vote counts, especially since his former highly vocal fan club, the students are out for his political blood, which is not so surprising given the magnitude of the betrayal of students in terms of tuition fees as illustrated by the following video:

Current Status of Dobcroft School Expansion

The 2015 temporary expansion by 30 places at the infants school is still going ahead whilst the permanent 2016 onwards expansion at both infants and juniors schools has been suspended.

The City Council is expected to meet tomorrow (18th March) at 2pm to discuss the permanent expansion (anti-expansion parents plan a demo outside). In all probability the Council will decide to put off the final decision until AFTER the May general election by issuing a statement along the lines of "expansion on hold for further consultation". Thereafter expect the go ahead for the expansion for 2016 onwards to probably be announced towards the end of this year.

By Nadeem Walayat

Copyright © 2005-2015 (Market Oracle Ltd). All rights reserved.

Nadeem Walayat has over 25 years experience of trading derivatives, portfolio management and analysing the financial markets, including one of few who both anticipated and Beat the 1987 Crash. Nadeem's forward looking analysis focuses on UK inflation, economy, interest rates and housing market. He is the author of five ebook's in the The Inflation Mega-Trend and Stocks Stealth Bull Market series that can be downloaded for Free.

Housing Markets Forecast 2014-2018The Stocks Stealth Bull Market 2013 and Beyond EbookThe Stocks Stealth Bull Market Update 2011 EbookThe Interest Rate Mega-Trend EbookThe Inflation Mega-trend Ebook

Nadeem is the Editor of The Market Oracle, a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication that presents in-depth analysis from over 1000 experienced analysts on a range of views of the probable direction of the financial markets, thus enabling our readers to arrive at an informed opinion on future market direction.

Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any trading losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors before engaging in any trading activities.

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