Austin Macauley 16 April 2014

Survey reveals 89% want councils in charge of new schools

Survey reveals 89% want councils in charge of new schools

A new poll has revealed overwhelming public support for councils to take back the power to open new schools.

The Local Government Association (LGA) survey found 89% of people in England believe the power to build and maintain new schools should be returned to local authorities.

Councils ceded control over who provides new schools following the Academies Act 2010 and the final say now lies with the education secretary.

However, local government is still responsible for ensuring there are enough school places locally and despite creating 90,000 last year a further 130,000 are still needed, according to the LGA.

Cllr Apu Bagchi, deputy chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: ‘This poll result reflects the trust residents have in councils. Councils have a duty to ensure there is a school place for every child and parents should know they will do everything in their power to ensure there is no child without a place.

‘The challenge for local authorities is making sure places are created on time and in the right places, in a climate where some of the decision-making about new school places is now in the hands of the government.

‘Although some school places have been created by free schools, these have not always been in line with demand locally. Additionally, some applications have stalled, leading to uncertainty for mums and dads.

‘By returning the power to create schools to councils, government could ensure school places for children of all ages can be delivered according to local demand, and in line with the local needs of parents and young people.’

A Department for Education spokesperson said: 'We are increasing the number of good school places by tackling underperformance and opening new free schools and academies. We have also more than doubled to £5bn the funding available to councils to create new school places, and are allowing good schools to expand without the restrictions and bureaucracy they faced in the past.

'This has already led to the creation of 260,000 new school places - all of which are in areas where there is a shortage of places, while seven out of 10 new places created under the free schools programme are in areas of basic need. Thanks to our reforms, the number of children in failing secondary schools has already fallen by a quarter of a million since 2010.'

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