Government is not doing enough to tackle shortage of primary school places

Tens of thousands of children failed to get into their first-choice primary school on national offer day in England, and Labour have said that the situation will only get worse as a result of government plans to make all schools academies.

Appearing on BBC News, Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell dismissed claims Labour is “scaremongering” about a shortage of primary school places in England.

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“Not at all. There is mounting evidence now — and the figures that we are releasing today are actually the Government’s own figures that they put out on the day of the Budget I think trying to hide some of those figures — showing that now one-in-four schools are full or over capacity. And there are many, many local authorities today warning that they won’t be able to meet demand as that continues to grow.”

In London, where demand for primary places is highest, one in six families learned on Monday that they had failed to get a place for their child at their preferred primary from September. 

In some areas of the capital, including Kensington and Chelsea, one in three children failed to get their first option, though overall the figures in London showed an improvement on 2015, with 84 per cent of families getting their first choice, up three points on last year.

In other areas of high demand, where schools and local authorities have been grappling with a surge in pupil numbers in recent years because of a population spike, there was widespread disappointment. In Reading, only 78.6 per cent won a place at their favoured school, leaving 1,756 children with their second choice or worse. In Birmingham it was 85.6 per cent, leaving one in seven families disappointed.

Powell added: “The Government’s own forecasts show that they’re going to need an extra nearly 300,000 primary school places over the course of this parliament over the next few years. And the Government just aren’t doing enough to create new school places, they’re not giving local authorities the powers or the resources that they need to ensure that parents this morning aren’t going to be disappointed with either their first choice or any of the choices.

“There is a structural problem here, which is that the Government are leaving this to the free market, to the free schools programme. And many of the free schools that have already opened that are due to be opened are not in places of acute need.

“So that’s why it’s not just me saying that there is a school places crisis and the Government aren’t doing enough, but the Local Government Association and their Conservative lead on children’s services… is saying exactly the same as I am saying today.

Sadiq Khan, Labour’s Mayoral candidate revealed new official statistics which show the amount spent on building new schools in London is set to fall by more than half as a result of Tory cuts — from £323 million in 2015 to just £141 million in 2018.

He also announced plans to convene a working group of London councils to work to plan school places across the city — ​ensuring new schools are built where they are most needed.



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