Mark Whitehead 14 June 2017

Councils call for greater power to increase first-choice school places

Local government leaders have renewed demands to be given more power over school admissions following the latest figures on parental choice.

Official figures show the proportion of 11-year-olds offered a place at their first-choice secondary school in England is the lowest since 2010.

This year 83.5% of applicants received offers from their first choice schools, down from 84.1% last year.

Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people boar,d said councils had created 600,000 more primary school places in recent years.

But, he added, nearly 70% of secondary schools were now academies or free schools and councils lacked power or influence over their expansion and admissions policies.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said there were already 1.8 million more children in good or outstanding schools than in 2010 but ‘we want to do more to ensure every child has access to a good school place.

Cllr Watts said: ‘Councils must be given powers to force schools to expand if local agreement cannot be reached voluntarily where this is in the best interests of new and existing pupils.

‘Most academies will be keen to work with their local authorities, but in the minority of situations where this isn’t the case, appropriate powers are vital to ensure all children get a suitable place.

‘Councils must also have the lead role in judging and approving applications for new free schools to make sure they’re appropriate for communities, and will need to be able to place vulnerable children in the schools that can offer them the best support.’

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