Councils spending £9,000 per pupil due to school places crisis


Local authorities are spending £9,000 on every pupil making up for a government funding shortfall, in order to create new school places in London, new figures reveal.

Analysis by London Councils, which represents the capital’s 33 local authorities, looked at the shortage of school places in the capital. It identifies that while councils have strategies in place to create places, the £9,000 cost per pupil that they are spending subsidising insufficient school places funding by government is placing unprecedented pressure on councils’ already squeezed budgets.

The scale of the school places crisis in London is vast, the analysis notes, with 83, 470 school places needed to be created between 2014 and 2017, equivalent to 151 full size football pitches. Between 2010 and September 2013, boroughs created more than 46,039 school places, equivalent to 1,535 classrooms, but more funding is needed to continue this expansion.

Cllr Peter John, London Councils' Executive Member for Children’s Services, said: "Councils are pulling out all the stops to create places, but London’s rising population, particularly at school age, means they are running to stand still. Frankly, this is just not sustainable."

"Families will rightly be asking why the government isn’t doing more to avoid putting pupils’ education at risk. Councils need sufficient funding to do this job and can’t simply be left to pick up the tab."

While other regions are also facing pressures to create additional places, the problem is most acute in London. The analysis notes that London accounts for 42 per cent of the future school place need. However, the government has only provided London with 36 per cent of the funding shortfall – leaving local authorities to pick up the shortfall in order to provide each child a school place.

Although the funding which the Department for Education made available this year is welcome, it is far from sufficient to meet the growing need caused by a rising birth rate, fewer pupils attending private schools and changes in where parents can afford to live due to the rising cost of housing in London.

London’s challenge is compounded by higher property and construction costs which make it more expensive than elsewhere to build, but the government has failed to adequately take these costs into account.

Cllr Peter John added: "Cash-strapped councils could otherwise spend this money on school equipment or other essential services. The government needs to reassure worried parents and provide adequate school funding."

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