Shortfall Of 70,000 Secondary School Places

London Councils warns local shortage has become 'critical'

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London Councils has warned that the shortage of school places across the capital has become critical with a predicted shortfall of around 70,000 over the next four years.

The shortage is largely concentrated in primary schools but begins to feed through into secondary schools in the 2014/15 school year.

According to data from 33 London boroughs, the 70,000 shortfall in permanent school places increases sharply over the next four years, from around 10,000 in the current school year to around 18,500 in the 2014/15 school year.

Currently around 11,000 pupils, mainly in Reception to Year 2 classes, are being taught in temporary classrooms such as portacabins because local authorities have received insufficient funding for permanent school places.

The Government has only announced 2011/12 funding allocations so far. London received £210 million but needs around £520 million to ensure every London pupil has a permanent school place in 2011/12 – that is a shortfall of around £310 million.

London’s problem is compounded by the distribution of funding. In 2011/12 London has only been allocated 26 per cent of the available funding for school places despite having 64 per cent of the shortfall in places.

The low amount of funding provided to London in 2011/12 reflects the fact that the Government did not take into account the existing capacity of schools in an area to meet any increase in pupil numbers. Because of the much higher pressure on school places in London in recent years, London has significantly fewer surplus places than other regions.

London Councils, the organisation which develops policy and fights for a better deal for London, is calling for the Government to revise its funding methodology to ensure that capital funding for school places is allocated to the areas of greatest need.

The situation has become serious due to a combination of factors including the rising birth rate and the sluggish property market which has meant that fewer families are moving out of London and the changing demographic of the capital.

London Councils’ Executive Member for Children and Young People, Councillor Steve Reed said: “Across London, the increase in primary age children requiring school places has become critical. The pressure on school places is much more severe in London than in any other part of the country and is set to grow rapidly over the next four years and beyond.

“Every parent has the right to expect their child can attend a local school. We don’t want to go back to oversized classrooms and we don’t want school children being forced to commute across London.

“We are calling on Government to revise their funding allocation to ensure that it is allocated to areas of greatest need. London Councils has come up with a solution which does not require the Government to release any extra funding for school places.

“London local authorities are working hard to try to ensure that they can offer every child a school place but with this surge in demand it is becoming increasingly difficult.”

April 7, 2011