The system for creating new school places in England is ‘fragmented and confusing’, risking harm to children’s education, Headteachers have warned. The NAHT believes this is due to a lack of cohesive local planning, new schools are not being opened where they are needed most.
The government have said they want to ensure a good school place for every child, however a Labour Party analysis has claimed that half a million children were now in “super-sized” primary classes. The shadow education secretary Lucy Powell believes that the “current system for planning new places is essentially broken” and pressure on places is starting to hit secondary schools.
This warning comes on the final day for parents to submit this year’s applications to primary schools. Lucy Powell continued to say that “some families applying today will go straight on to a waiting list with no offer of any school places, and soaring numbers of pupils will continue to be crammed into ever-growing classes”.
The Academies Act 2010 stipulated all new schools have to either be an academy or a free school, so local authorities have actually lost their power to create new schools but retained the responsibility for having enough school places locally. This means local authorities, academies and central government take decisions on school places in isolation, which is causing the issues raised by the NAHT.
Therefore the rise in pupil numbers will make it even harder for parents to secure school places. The Department for Education believe that 95% of parents had received an offer from one of their top three preferred schools last year. “The government doubled basic-need funding for new school places to £5bn between 2011 and 2014, helping create over half a million new places since May 2010” claimed one spokeswomen from the DfE.
Even with this increase in investment the Labour Party believes that more needs to be done. One Conservative Party spokesman suggested the Labour Party’s statistics were “misleading”. “At the same time as pupil numbers were booming, the last Labour government cut funding for school places by £150m, scrapping almost 200 places. So rather than trying to scare parents with misleading statistics they should be backing the measures we’ve taken to clear up the mess they left behind”.
But what do you think? Is the Government doing enough to supply school places for the nation’s children? Or are class sizes too large which piles the pressure on teachers? Are your classes too large? Have your say!