IF any proof were needed that the terrible floods of 2007 brought Gloucestershire folk closer together, here it is.
A huge jump in the birth rate nine months after the shocking events of July 2007 means an extra 120 school places must be found in Gloucester this September – leaving council chiefs with a £600,000 bill.
Across Gloucestershire, more than 200 school places will have to be found.
Councillor Jackie Hall (Con, Quedgeley), county council cabinet member for education, said: "We need to take action to ensure we will have enough primary school places in the areas where we know there will be an increase in demand."
In Tewkesbury, which was famously turned into an island by the flood waters, the birth rate in 2008 reached a two-decade high of 909, 69 up on 2007.
At the start of the decade the county's birth rate for the year was 6,064 and it had fallen to 5,946 by 2005.
But in 2008 it peaked at 6,730, increasing everywhere except the Cotswolds.
Kate Jeal, a spokeswoman for Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, could not rule out the flooding theory. She said: "Anecdotally we know of surges in the birth rates in the 1970s, for example, when there were power cuts and people were stuck at home."Nicola Davies, a spokeswoman for Gloucestershire County Council, said: “I’ve always thought that there must have been a spike in the birth rate following the floods, even within my circle of friends.“Out of a small team of press officers working during the flood crisis, four of us became pregnant during that time and I doubt we were the only ones,” said the mother of two.Cheltenham mother of three, Ellen Butt, 33, from Brooklyn Road, found herself falling pregnant during the floods with her youngest son, Micah. He was born two days early on April 15, 2008 weighing 8lb 14oz after a home water birth.The governor at Rowanfield Infant School in Alstone Lane said: “The school is one of those putting on the extra places to cope with the large intake. Our children all have two years between them and that seemed a good natural progression so we were trying for Micah.“Although he is not really a ‘flood baby’, I think there will be some out there. I have two close friends and we all had babies about the same time, so I suppose there were quite a few babies born around the same time.”Kate Jeal, a spokeswoman for Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Anecdotally we know of surges in the birth rates in the 1970s, for example, when there were power cuts and people were stuck at home.”
Longer term forecasts reveal an extra 5,000 school places need to be found at primaries between and now 2015.
One fifth of schools are full or over subscribed, but the majority do have spaces free at the moment.
Schools minister Lord Hill said: "We're dealing with the impact of soaring birth rates on primary schools."
A county council consultation is running from January 24 until the end of February on the proposals on extra school places.
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