William Eichler 27 August 2019

Council chiefs warn of ‘looming’ school places crisis

Local authority leaders have called on the Government to give them more powers to open maintained schools to help avoid an impending secondary school place shortage.

Last year, councils created 37,000 new secondary school places by working with the schools and, in some cases, commissioning places in academies and free schools.

However, an analysis from the Local Government Association (LGA) has revealed that 15 councils will face a secondary school place shortfall in 2020/21 unless more secondary school places are created.

This figure, according to the LGA, will rise to 27 in 2021/22, 49 in 2022/23 and 64 in 2023/24. By 2024/25, a total of 71 councils (48%) face not being able to meet demand for 123,195 places.

To address what they characterise as a ‘looming crisis’, the LGA has urged Whitehall to give councils the power to open new maintained schools and to direct free schools and academies to expand.

‘Despite all odds, councils have been able to provide desperately-needed places for parents looking to secure their child’s place at secondary school in the past year,’ said Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board.

‘No family should face uncertainty over their child’s school place. But our secondary school places crisis is now just one year away and this will be the reality for thousands of families without action.

‘Councils need to be allowed to open new maintained schools and direct academies to expand. It makes no sense for councils to be given the responsibility to plan for school places but then not be allowed to open schools themselves.

‘The Government needs to work closely with councils to meet the challenges currently facing the education system.’

A Department for Education spokesperson said: 'We are determined to create more choice for parents when it comes to their children’s education and we have created around 920,000 school places since 2010, and are on track to see that number rise to a million by 2020.

'Standards have also risen, with 85% of schools now rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, compared to 68% in 2010.

'Local authorities have the power to open new schools, and to create new school places, and must ensure there are enough school places to meet needs locally.'

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