Primary places crisis sees pupils packed in like sardines

A third of councils have been forced to lay on ‘bulge’ reception classes this week to cope with a huge influx of new pupils – and it’s going to get worse.

Many primary pupils are being taught in temporary classrooms, with some schools renting space in empty offices – even a police station in one case. The problem has been caused by a baby boom, increasing immigration and families being unable to afford private education.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned that within two years almost half of England’s school districts will have more primary pupils than places, rising overall to two thirds by 2016, the BBC reports.

The LGA warning comes as the government opens 93 free schools, making a total of 174 and providing 43,000 new school places. With free schools and academies being approved directly by the DfE, councils say that this limits their ability to plan strategically. The LGA also points out that the DfE using four different methods for funding school places since 2007 has led to a piecemeal approach and that in future funding should come from a single pot.

The government and the opposition are blaming each other for the crisis. Michael Gove claimed that the government has “taken swift action to repair the damage” left by Labour and accused Ed Miliband of being “too weak to stand up to the unions and back free schools”. Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg blamed the Prime Minister: “In choosing to prioritise school capital funding in areas with surplus places through his free schools programme, David Cameron is showing he is out of touch with the needs of ordinary people by failing to meet the basic need for school places.”

Are you teaching in a ‘bulge’ reception class and if so what effect is it having on you and your pupils? Who’s to blame for the crisis?

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