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News - 5 September 2013

Shortage of places in Primary Schools.

A report by the Local Government Association (LGA) claims that almost half of the school districts in England will have more primary school pupils than places by 2015, with some districts facing a 20% shortfall.

The LGA's analysis of local authority data on school-place needs suggests about 1,000 of the 2,277 local school planning districts will be over-capacity by 2015-16.  Their warning comes as the government opens 93 free schools, raising the total to 174 and providing 43,000 new school places.

According to the Office for National Statistics, more babies were born in the UK in 2011-12 than any year since 1972.  In the same year, 165,600 more people came to the UK than left - contributing to an overall rise in UK population of 419,900.

Lavinia Newman, founder of ABDS comments:
“However, the analysis may not take into account more recent steps to increase school capacity. Overall, two thirds of local authorities are predicting they will have more pupils than places by the beginning of the 2016 academic year.”

The LGA is calling for the Department for Education (DfE) to work more closely with local councils, so planning for emerging demand can be better managed.

Free schools and academies are approved directly by the DfE, and councils say this can limit their ability to plan strategically, especially as they have no powers to force such schools to expand or close in response to changes in demand.

LGA chairman David Simmonds said the key thing was to ensure that £5bn recently made available by the government to boost capacity was spent quickly and efficiently in the areas where it was most needed. "We need to make sure that money comes through the local authority who are often ready with their shovels and diggers to get work under way immediately."

The LGA also says the fact that the DfE has used four different methods for funding school places since 2007 has led to a piecemeal approach - and all the money should, in future, come from a single pot.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said the coalition had "taken swift action to repair the damage" left by Labour, accusing Ed Miliband of being "too weak to stand up to the unions and back free schools".

But shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said the crisis was of David Cameron's own making.

The New Schools Network, which helps groups set up their own schools, said free schools were well on track to deliver more than 250,000 new places by 2015

If you need any help and advice with Free School or Academy Schools, contact Lavinia Newman or Peter Ham now to discuss how ABDS can help bring their experience to these matters.

ABDS Chartered Certified Accountants of Southampton.
Tel: 023 8083 6900  E-mail: abds@netaccountants.net

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