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Primary Education News
News Councils face shortage of primary school places, says LGA
Some towns could have as many as 75% more pupils than primary school places, based on current figures
The baby boom of recent years could lead to a shortage of primary school places in fast-growing parts of England within the next three years, the Local Government Association (LGA) has said.
Towns such as Costessey, in Norfolk, and Purfleet, in Essex, could have as many as 75% more pupils than primary school places, based on current figures.
Rapid population growth and years of under-investment in schools could lead to London boroughs such as Waltham Forest, Newham and Hounslow having 25% more eligible children than school places by 2016.
David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA's children and young people board, said councils faced "unprecedented pressure" in tackling the shortage.
"Councils across the country have been increasing places by expanding schools where possible through additional classes or new buildings," Simmonds said. "However, without enough resource to provide places we are seeing some schools having to take extreme measures, including converting non-classroom space and reducing playground space."
A spokesman for the Department for Education said it was spending £5bn by 2015 on creating new school places, including tens of thousands of places in free schools.
"Seventy per cent of all open free schools are in areas of basic need, while all the open and planned free schools will deliver 130,000 new places. They will continue to open where there is demand from parents for good schools and help manage the pressure caused by rising birth rates on the school system," the DfE said.
Michael Gove, the education secretary, blamed the previous Labour government for not taking action to address the problem while in office. "Labour cut 200,000 primary places, slashed the amount spent on areas of population growth and let immigration soar – and all this in the middle of a baby boom," he said.
"The coalition government has, however, taken swift action to repair the damage. We have more than doubled funding for new school places and we are also setting up great new free schools, which are giving parents a choice of high-quality school places in areas Labour neglected."
There are shortages across England, but especially in the south and on the fringes of London and the Thames valley. Redbridge, Ealing, Bristol, Lewisham, Slough, Manchester, Barking and Dagenham, Sutton and Peterborough councils may have to find an additional 20% more places to fulfil demand, the LGA said, while Bedfordshire may need as much as 25% more capacity.
The LGA wants the DfE to work more closely with local councils so that planning for increased demand for places can be better managed.