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Richmond children face long commute to school, opposition warns
Some 11-year-olds could face a daunting commute across the borough to get to secondary school next year when the number of classroom places drops, it has been claimed.
Richmond Council predicted it would have enough capacity on both sides of the Thames for pupils enrolling for September 2013.
However, its forecast relied on proposed free schools, including a Maharishi Free School, in Oldfield Road, Hampton, opening next year.
Councillor Stephen Knight, leader of Richmond’s Liberal Democrat group, said the council could not guarantee the Department for Education (DfE) would approve its applications and, if it did, parents may not want to send their children there. He said: “Only three of the borough’s eight secondary schools have any spare capacity for this September’s intake and next year, according to the council’s own projections, without a new secondary school on the Middlesex side of the borough, only Richmond Park Academy, in East Sheen, will have spare places.”
He claimed the council’s decision to approve a Catholic secondary school in Clifden Road, Twickenham, and spend £25m creating sixth forms meant it had no more land to solve the problem.
He added: “This means that 11-year-olds in Twickenham, Hampton and Teddington could well face a daunting commute to East Sheen as soon as September 2013.”
The council’s forecast, which it published with its consultation about the Clifden Road site, predicted free schools would create 100 more classroom places in 2013.
A Richmond Council spokeswoman said: “Our forecasts and our plans indicate that there will be sufficient secondary school capacity on both sides of the Thames from September, 2013.
“We do not envisage any children on the Middlesex side of the river commuting to Richmond Park Academy unless it is through parental preference.”
The Maharishi Free School Richmond team said it has met with Lord True, leader of Richmond Council, to discuss its unique and inclusive ethos and the quality of education it would provide.
A group of residents have started a NoRichmondFreeSchool campaign on Twitter to derail the Maharishi School Trust’s application, which has been competing against another bid from St Mary’s Church, in Church Street, Hampton.
The church has asked the Department for Education permission to build a primary school on the same site.
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