Schools warn of pupil places ‘crisis’ as half of councils fail to meet rising demand

The Independent reports that parents vying to secure a secondary school for their children in the next five years face the worrying possibility of not getting a place, as councils warn of an impending crisis over a lack of pupil capacity across Britain.

Almost half (49 per cent) of councils are at risk of being unable to meet rising demand for places within the next five years. This means up to 125,000 children are predicted to miss out in September 2022, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

The LGA’s analysis claims 12 local authorities would face a shortfall in secondary school places from 2018/2019 without changes. That figure rises to 23 in 2019/20, 41 in 2020/21, 57 in 2021/22 and 66 in 2022/23, it argues.

As millions of pupils prepare to return to school this week, the LGA said new powers are urgently needed to empower local authorities to force academies and free schools into expanding – currently, neither are obliged to comply with local authority requests.

However, academies and free schools currently answer directly to the Department of Education, bypassing local state education control.

 Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (a merger between the country’s largest teaching unions) said “Local authorities must have their powers to open new schools restored. It beggars belief that while councils have a legal duty to ensure there are sufficient school places locally, Conservative reforms mean they no longer have the power to open new local authority-maintained schools. 

“In addition, councils must have the authority to direct academies and free schools to expand where they have capacity – a power they do have in respect of maintained schools.”

Manchester is said to be worst affected, with schools across the city already oversubscribed and operating at 103 per cent capacity. The coming spike in secondary age children in the area means that in Manchester alone, an additional 12,886 places will need to be found.

Read more Schools warn of pupil places ‘crisis’ as half of councils fail to meet rising demand

Do you agree with Kevin Courtney? Is your school over subscribed? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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