Quarter of a million extra school places needed

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A quarter of a million extra school places are needed in England by Autumn 2014 according to the National Audit Office.

The spending watchdog says that one in five primary schools across the country are full or near capacity. 240,000 of the places needed are in primary schools.

The demand for places has shot up because of the country's birth rate, which is rising quicker than at any time since the 1950's.
 
National Audit Office head Amyas Morse said: "The department has ambitious objectives to provide school places, and to enable parents to have some choice of school for their children.

"However, despite increases in places and funding over the last two years, it faces a real challenge... there are indications of strain on school places. The government needed a better understanding of costs to improve value for money and of the impact its funds had on the ground."

Ministers, however, say 80,000 extra places have been created and demand will be met.

But despite the creation of those 80,000 extra places, the NAO report says the system is under strain and that, until last year, the government was unable to identify "hotspots" easily. In total, 256,000 new school places are needed by 2014-15, 240,000 in primary schools, it said.

London has the greatest need - accounting for 37% of the extra primary places required, according to the NAO.

Local councils have a legal duty to ensure there are school places for all children in their areas, but the NAO report said local planning was affected by uncertainty over future funding for extra places.

Shadow schools minister, Kevin Brennan, said: "Michael Gove's first job as education secretary is to provide enough school places for children - he is failing in that duty.

"David Cameron's government needs to address the crisis in school places they have created. They have cut funding for school buildings by 60%, twice the Whitehall average."

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