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Shortfall in school places

17 Apr

(1)        The Current Scene

According to the National Audit Office (NAO), an estimated 256,000 primary and secondary places will be needed by 1 September 2014 (of which 240,000 will be in the primary sector) with 37% extra in London alone.

Altogether, 80,000 additional primary spaces were created in local authority schools and new Free Schools.  The increase alleviates only a small fraction of the pressure that local authorities face.   According to the NAO,

(i)            more than a fifth of primary schools (20.4%) are already full up or over-capacity;

(ii)           the number of children taught in large infant classes of 31 pupils or more has more than doubled over the last five years;

(iii)          between the academic years 2006/7 and 2011/12, the number of four-year-olds starting reception classes rose by 16%; and

(iv)         by September 2014, an estimated 256,000 extra primary and secondary places will be needed to meet demand.

We also know that 70,000 parents, one in seven of the total, did not get their children into their first choice of secondary school in September 2012. The reality is possibly worse. Many parents purposely select schools they are likely to be offered, rather than risk missing out by applying for the best. A quarter of all parents choose the local schools because they can walk there and a few regret doing so.

The Department for Education (DfE) estimated in 2010 that the country would need £5 billion to provide 324,000 additional places and was of the view that this would be covered by its funding and contributions from local councils.  However, the sum did not include costs such as acquiring land for new schools because the DfE assumed that most new places would be created as part of existing schools. Continue reading