Far-reaching options to revitalise primary education in the Chester city and rural areas were unveiled yesterday.
There are 1,218 empty desks (13.6% of the total) at schools in the area -the highest number of surplus places in any locality within Cheshire.
Options for consultation, outlined to headteachers, governors and major partners, will remove surplus places and use cash - now wasted on unnecessary overheads - to forge a new system designed for the 21st century.
In a statement released yesterday, the county council said that, if implemented, the proposals will create a viable framework of schools for the future, able to deliver high standards of education and offer a wider range of services to Chester's
young people and their families.
It is proposed that capital investment of £4m-plus will fund a state-of-the-art, all-through primary school building at Saughall, to replace the suggested amalgamation
of The Ridings Community Infants and Thomas Wedge CE Junior Schools.
And a further £2m is proposed for extensions to the suggested amalgamation of Victoria Infant and St Thomas of Canterbury Blue Coat Junior Schools on existing sites and the enlargement of Newton Primary School to accommodate pupils from a closed Woodfield Primary.
Both these proposals will also benefit from the development of Children's Centres - one on the former Kingsway High School site and the other incorporated on the Victoria/St Thomas campus.
County Councillor David Rowlands, Executive Member for Children's Services, said: 'It is impossible to sustain a provision of places that was designed for 10 years ago without affecting resources available for today's young people.
'We have to remove what is a substantial barrier to progress and seize the chance to create a fairer system that will provide the maximum opportunities for all our children.
'Doing nothing it not an option -simply because the situation will worsen with surplus capacity in Chester's primary schools likely to rise to over 16% in around four years.'
He added: 'I want to emphasise that that the schools identified in the options are serving their communities well.
'But, as a responsible authority we must take a strategic view for the future good of everyone concerned.
'Resources directed at sustaining surplus places are wasted resources -resources that could be used to provide quality education and much needed community services.'
Director of children's service Joan Feenan said: 'I would emphasise that at this stage these are options for consultation only.
'And I would urge parents in the best interests of their children to wait until the full consultation process has been completed before considering alternative schools.'
Options - which follow detailed discussions with headteachers and governors - also include the possible closure of Boughton St Paul's Nursery and Infant (51.9%) Harthill Primary (67.8%) and Huxley CE Primary (50%) - all schools with high empty desk totals.
FACTfile > > >
The primary education options in full :
* Amalgamation of Thomas Wedge CE Voluntary Controlled Junior School and The Ridings Community Infant School in Saughall to form an all-through voluntary controlled primary school on a single site, providing 10 class bases and a planned admission number of 40
* Amalgamation of St Thomas of Canterbury CE Voluntary Aided Junior School and Victoria Community Infant School as an all-through voluntary aided primary school providing one and a half forms of entry across both existing sites, with an appropriate building project to improve the accommodation to support the proposed changes
* Closure of Boughton St Paul's Infant and Nursery School in August 2008 with displaced pupils being offered places at Cherry Grove Primary School
* Closure of Woodfield Primary School, Newton in August 2008 and enlargement of Newton Primary School from current capacity of 360 places to a two form of entry primary school offering 420 places
* Closure of Harthill Primary School in August 2008
* Closure of Huxley CE Primary School in August 2008
* Relocation of St Mary's Nursery to occupy surplus capacity at Overleigh St Mary's CE Primary School from September 2008.
Parents get their say
PARENTS at all schools involved were informed by letter yesterday.
Those seeking further clarification or wishing to express views can do so at drop-in sessions at Bishop Heber High School in Malpas on December 12 from 3-7pm and in the Chester Town Hall Assembly Room on December 13 from 3-7pm.
At the end of January 2007, the county council will consider initial feedback and decide whether to amend the options or proceed to formal consultation.
There will then be separate meetings arranged for staff, governors and parents at the relevant schools to ensure their views are put before members.