LGA warns again of looming school places crunch

18 Apr 16

Councils have reiterated calls for clarity on how they will be able to ensure they can continue to provide sufficient school places once all schools have converted to academies.

As parents received primary school places for their children, the Local Government Association stressed that, despite the academisation programme, councils would retain their responsibility to ensure all children get a school place, despite having no powers to ensure academies and free schools expand.

Roy Perry, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “If proposals within the education white paper go forward and all schools convert to academies, councils must be given powers to force schools to expand where this is in the best interests of new and existing pupils. Most academies will be keen to work with their local authorities, but in the minority of situations where this isn’t the case, appropriate powers are vital to ensure all children get a suitable place.

“Councils will also need a greater role in judging and approving applications for new schools to make sure they’re appropriate for communities, and will need to be able to place vulnerable children in the schools that can offer them the best support.”

According to the LGA, an additional 336,000 primary school places will be needed by 2024.

Under the academy plans, sponsors will be asked to submit proposals to create extra places, but the LGA said there was a question mark over whether there were sufficient sponsors to fill future need.

Central government will take final decisions on new schools, despite councils having a “unique understanding” of local needs, the LGA argued.

The group also warned that vulnerable children could miss out in an academy system, as academies would be under cannot be compelled to admit pupils who have, for example, received a statement of special educational needs.

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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