Ministers ‘must urgently fund crisis in primary school places’

8 Jun 09
London Councils has demanded emergency government funding to deal with the looming ‘crisis’ in primary schools

29 May 2009

By David Williams

London Councils has demanded emergency government funding to deal with the looming ‘crisis’ in primary schools.

The plea follows the Department for Children, Schools and Families’ response to the growing shortage of reception class places in the capital.

A London Councils spokesman said: ‘DCSF ministers and officials appear to have accepted that there is a problem with increased pressure on primary school places nationally, but with a particular emphasis on London due to the effects of the recession.

‘While we welcome this position, it is vital that the government provides London’s local authorities immediately with emergency funding to ensure all the capital’s reception-age children have a place in the coming year.’

In April, London Councils’ report, Do the maths, warned that the birth rate in England had increased by 16.8% in five years.

In London, the figure is over 20%. London Councils estimated that the capital was already more than 2,000 reception places short, and anticipated a rise to more than 18,000 by 2014.

The DCSF wrote to London Councils last week. Its letter is almost identical to the one sent to Pat Stannard, chair of governors at the Woodside School in the London Borough of Waltham Forest, reported by Public Finance on May 8.

Signed by Karen McGarry of the DCSF school organisation unit, it says ministers have asked officials to look at what additional funding could be available to authorities with the greatest need, and that the short-term priority is to ensure every child has a school place in 2010/11.

‘In the mid to long term we will be looking at how the allocation of Basic Need funding can address the projected growth in pupil numbers… to 2013/14 and beyond,’ the London Councils letter, dated May 19, said.

The Woodside letter, dated April 28, had promised the department would have a clearer idea of the level of funding available ‘in the next two to three weeks’.

This timetable seems to have slipped since, as the later London Councils letter said that the department now expected to have a clearer picture ‘in the next few weeks’.

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