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No more room at the top

Has the Government promised the parents of infant children more than it can deliver? Dorothy Lepkowska reports

Dulwich Village infants school would love to employ more teachers - if only the buildings could accommodate the extra classes.

Ministerial promises of an additional teacher if parental demand threatens to push class sizes over 30, will be useless in a split-site school with no hall and cramped overcrowded classrooms, said headteacher Jackie Bartley.

Dulwich Village, a voluntary-aided school in a wealthy south London enclave, pays pound;3,000 a year to use the local community hall as a makeshift dining room and assembly hall. An annual capital bid for pound;250,000 for a new hall has been consistently turned down.

Yet, despite its poor buildings, parents are clamouring for a place for their youngsters. The school has some of the best results at key stage 1 of any in London. Almost half of seven-year-olds achieved level 3 in reading - level 2 is the benchmark for the age group - while 98 per cent overall achieved level 2 in science and 90 per cent in maths.

Dulwich Village is heavily over-subscribed with a waiting list of 110 names and there is evidence, said Mrs Bartley, that local estate agents are using the school's reputation to attract home-buyers.

The school uses a stringent admissions policy for accepting new pupils. Parents and pupils should attend the local church, or at least live within the parish. The governors' admissions panel then considers children of other Christian denominations and those with siblings already attending.

Mrs Bartley said the admission rules were strict to deter parents from appealing and overburdening classes with additional pupils.

She said: "If we do get a situation were parents choose us for our results and we have to take them in, then we will need a new bigger school on one site.

"We have a three-form entry and I believe that four forms should be the maximum for an effective school. I do not like the idea of expanding infant schools beyond control."

Dorothy Lepkowska

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