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Primary Education News
News Warning of dire school places shortage
Local Government Association says Michael Gove's focus on free schools and academies is not providing help in right areas
Almost half of the school districts in England are predicted to have more primary pupils than places within two years, it has been reported.
The "unnecessary restrictions" on councils wanting to open schools could leave parents scrambling for places that do not exist by 2015, the head of the Local Government Association told the BBC.
The LGA chairman, David Simmonds, said councils were facing "unprecedented pressures", leaving schools to face a "desperate shortage" of places in the near future.
"The process of opening up much-needed schools is being impaired by a one-size-fits-all approach and in some cases by the presumption in favour of free schools and academies."
The warning comes as the government announces 93 new free schools opening across the country, creating an extra 43,000 spaces for primary and secondary school children.
But the LGA is calling for the Department for Education to work more closely with local councils so planning for emerging demand for places can be better managed.
Its analysis of local authority data suggests about 1,000 of the 2,277 local school planning districts will be over capacity by 2015-16.
"Local councils have a legal duty to ensure there is a school place for every child in their area but they are being hampered by uncertainty and unnecessary restrictions," Simmonds said.
"This could result in parents scrambling for places that just don't exist and threatens to seriously impact on our children's education.
Simmonds said free schools should only be allowed to open in areas in need of new places, after five of the free primary schools appear to be launching in areas forecast to have surplus places several years from now.
Overall two-thirds of local authorities expected to be oversubscribed by the beginning of the 2016 academic year, the LGA told the BBC.
The greatest pressure is focussed on about 99 districts, where 20% more pupils are predicted than places will be available.
Peterborough, Redbridge, Ealing, Bristol, Lewisham, Slough, Maidenhead, Sutton and Barking and Dagenham will have to increase the number of school places by at least 20% to ensure every child gets a place, the LGA said.
However the association noted that the recent figures, submitted in 2012-2013, might not take into account recent steps to rectify the projected shortfall of places.
The education secretary, Michael Gove, told the BBC that the coalition government had "taken swift action to repair the damage" caused by Labour.
"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," he said.