Tens of thousands of children risk missing out on school place – analysis
Tens of thousands of children risk missing out on a secondary school place over the next five years as a third of local areas in England face being oversubscribed, an analysis suggests.
The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned that 11 council areas will face a shortfall next year – as a demographic bulge moves into secondary schools – unless more places are created.
An analysis by the LGA, which represents councils across England, suggests this will rise in successive years and by 2025/26, a total of 50 council areas face not being about to meet demand for 77,085 places.
The organisation is calling for the Government to use the forthcoming spending review to give councils powers to open new maintained schools – or direct academies to expand – to meet demand.
It comes after Government figures in June revealed that the number of pupils in state secondary schools in England has risen by 81,300 to 3.41 million.
As of January, the average class size in all secondary schools was 22 pupils, up from 21.7 last year.
Judith Blake, chairwoman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “It continues to make no sense for councils to be given the responsibility to plan for school places but then not be allowed to open schools themselves.
“Councils do not want any families to have to face uncertainty over securing their child’s secondary school.
“But the number of pupils is growing at a far faster rate than the number of places available and councils need to be given the powers to help solve this crisis.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “The number of secondary school pupils is rising and this does need to be carefully planned, but the LGA’s call for new powers slightly misses the point.”
He added: “The issue is how we ensure there is a sufficient number of places to meet demand for places in schools which are rated as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, as these tend to be over-subscribed.
“The answer is to look at how we better support schools which face the greatest challenges so that every child has access to a place in a good school.”
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “We are determined to create more choice for parents when it comes to their children’s education and we have created a million more school places since 2010.
“This year, almost 94 per cent of pupils received an offer of one of their top three preferences for secondary schools and more than 50 new free schools have opened this month alone, which will create over 24,000 new school places across the country.
“Local authorities already have the power to open new schools and to create new school places, and must ensure there are enough school places to meet local needs.”