LGA calls for powers to avert school places crisis

29 Feb 16

The Local Government Association has today reiterated that councils may not be able to provide a school place for every child unless they are given additional powers, including the ability to force academies to expand.

On the day children in England receive their secondary school placement offers, the umbrella group of councils said ministers needed to ensure local authorities remain at the heart of school place planning.

Echoing a warning issued in January, LGA children and young people board chair Roy Perry said that without academies – which now make up over 60% of secondary schools – agreeing to increase capacity, there may not be enough places.

“Councils have a statutory duty to ensure every child has a school place available to them but find themselves in the difficult position of not being able to ensure schools, including academies, expand. Finding suitable sponsors with the capacity to take on the running of a successful new school is also proving a challenge.

“Councils have already created an extra 300,000 primary places, but those children will soon need to move up to secondary schools. Councils will do everything they can to rise to the challenge of ensuring no child goes without a place, but all schools must play their part too.”

He suggested that, if academies did not expand, then powers to create new schools should be returned to local authorities.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, backed this call.

“Local authorities, as the LGA says, need to be able to open maintained schools to meet the needs of the communities they serve,” she added.

“They also need to be able to ensure that existing schools, including academies, will expand when required. It is ridiculous to exclude the one body that has local knowledge, effective strategic oversight and democratic accountability.”

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, observed that the increase in pupil numbers was not a surprise.

“We’ve known these children would need secondary school places for years. The government has really let down children by not planning properly and is failing in its fundamental duty to provide a school place for every child,” she said.

“The free school experiment has failed in its most important purpose – ensuring every child has a local school place. The government must restore local authorities powers. They know their local area and should be able to respond to local need.”

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