THREE primary schools will be expanded to create nearly 300 extra places as part of a multi-million pound investment to deal with growing demand.

Gaskell, St Catherine’s Academy and SS Osmund and Andrews schools have been selected as the first primary schools in the borough to expand.

More than £3m will be spent using funding from the Department for Education, with an additional £3m still available for other schools.

Plans to expand Gilnow, Markland Hill and Moorgate primary schools will also be explored in case of further demand in the future.

This follows a feasibility study into increasing Bolton’s school capacity in order to meet rising demand.

This is partly down to a growth in in-year school admissions, caused by families with young children moving to the area from outside the borough.

But the government funding will not cover increasing pressures coming from new housing developments or the growing demand in special educational needs.

Executive cabinet member for education Ann Cunliffe expressed concern about the pressures created by new developments but described the move as a positive step.

She said: “More and more people are moving to the area to take advantage of new job opportunities and a growing economy, and with that comes added demand for school places.

“This is a really positive step which will enable us to meet the needs of families in Bolton both now and in the future.

“Bolton has some fantastic schools and I am excited to see these expansions, so children of all ages can benefit from a quality education.

“We’ve already done some work to expand primary schools and it is wonderful to see the positive effect this has had on pupils and staff.”

The Horwich and Blackrod councillor explained that additional pressures created by new houses is paid for by developers.

During the planning process, developers discuss how much they will contribute towards education provision with the local authority through a Section 106 agreement.

Cllr Cunliffe also said that demand in special educational needs will need to be met in other ways as the government grant cannot be used for this purpose.

She added: “We need school places for everybody, not just mainstream schools.”

Gaskell Community Primary School will receive the highest sum of £1.5m to create an additional 105 places with work expected to start by the summer.

An additional 120 places will be created at St Catherine’s Academy at a cost of £775,000 and S S Osmund and Andrews RC Primary School will have an extra 70 places following a £1m investment.

St Catherine’s Academy headteacher Rachael Lucas said the expansion will help meet both current need and future demand.

She said: “We are delighted that we can respond to the local need. We are pleased that we are able to accommodate the need that there is."

The Breightmet school, which is now part of the Bishop Fraser Trust, has already completed a consultation on the expansion which is expected to create new places by September 2020.