No place for 8,800 pupils in just five years’ time Warn­ing over loom­ing short­age of city sec­ondary school places

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Jonathan Walker Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

THOU­SANDS of Birm­ing­ham chil­dren face miss­ing out on a sec­ondary school place in the next five years be­cause the city may not be able to meet de­mand.

Anal­y­sis from the Lo­cal Govern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion (LGA), which rep­re­sents coun­cils across the coun­try, re­veals that 8,800 Birm­ing­ham chil­dren will miss out on a sec­ondary school place by 2023/24 as a re­sult of the surge in pupil num­bers, un­less new places are cre­ated.

The LGA says the coun­try faces a sec­ondary school places “emer­gency” un­less govern­ment gives coun­cils the pow­ers to open schools or di­rect acad­e­mies to ex­pand.

Coun­cil­lor An­ntoinette Bram­ble, chair­man of the LGA’s Chil­dren and Young Peo­ple Board, said: “The num­ber of pupils is grow­ing at a far faster rate than the num­ber of places avail­able.”

The Govern­ment said it was al­ready spend­ing £23 bil­lion to en­sure ev­ery child has ac­cess to a good school.

Lo­cal coun­cils are obliged to en­sure ev­ery child has a school place, and they’re ex­pand­ing schools to keep up with pupil num­bers.

But the prob­lem, ac­cord­ing to the LGA, is that many sec­ondary schools are now acad­e­mies or free schools, and lo­cal coun­cils have no pow­ers to or­der them to ex­pand.

Birm­ing­ham is one of 25 coun­cils across the coun­try that is set to run out of sec­ondary school places by 2020/21.

It will be 1,199 places short in that year, ac­cord­ing to the LGA, and the short­fall will in­crease to 8,800 by 2023/24.

To ad­dress this, the LGA is call­ing for govern­ment to let coun­cils open new tra­di­tional coun­cil schools, known as main­tained schools, and to give them the power to tell free schools and acad­e­mies to ex­pand.

Cllr Bram­ble said: “Coun­cils need to be given the pow­ers to help solve this cri­sis. As a start­ing point they should be al­lowed to open new main­tained schools and di­rect acad­e­mies to ex­pand. It makes no sense for coun­cils to be given the re­spon­si­bil­ity to plan for school places but then not al­lowed to open schools them­selves.

“It is only by work­ing with coun­cils, rather than shut­ting them out, that pri­mary grow­ing we can meet the chal­lenges cur­rently fac­ing the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.”

School Stan­dards Min­is­ter Nick Gibb said: “This Govern­ment has driven the largest cre­ation in school places in two gen­er­a­tions and by 2020, there will be one mil­lion more new places across the school sys­tem than there were in 2010. We are spend­ing £23 bil­lion by 2021 to en­sure ev­ery child has ac­cess to a good school place and since 2010, 43,000 fewer pupils are be­ing taught in over­crowded schools. Our lat­est ad­mis­sions data shows that 93.8 per cent of chil­dren re­ceived of­fers from one of their top three choice of sec­ondary school last year.”

Re­search by Labour sug­gests more pri­mary school chil­dren are be­ing taught in large classes. More than 47,000 chil­dren across the West Mid­lands in Key Stage 2 – which usu­ally means aged seven to 11 – are taught in classes with more than 30 pupils and just one teacher, ac­cord­ing to an anl­y­sis of De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion statis­tics.

This is up 2011. from 30,000 pupils in

> The num­ber of pupils in Birm­ing­ham is grow­ing at a faster rate than the num­ber of places avail­able in schools

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