Secondary Schools Face 80,000-Place shortfall

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Urgent action is needed to prevent a shortage of secondary school places in a third of local authorities in England within five years, according to a report by the Local Government Association (LGA).

The new figures show schools are facing a potential shortfall of 80,000 new places by 2020, with 49 out of 152 councils affected.

Peter Fleming, of the LGA, said: "Local government has been working really hard, particularly in primary schools. Over 90,000 primary school places were created last year.

"But of course those kids are going to grow up. And what we are concerned about is that those kids have places in secondary schools in the future.

"Free schools open wherever they want, and may not open where the demand is.

"This free-for-all is all very well, but without a planned approach, it will mean that in certain areas, you won't have enough places for all the kids."

David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA's children and young people board, said: "As children move through primary school, securing new secondary places will become a significant issue.

"Mums and dads should know councils will do everything they can to create more school places and there are great examples of the work being done across the country.

"The challenge for councils is making sure places are delivered on time and in the right places, in a context where some of the decision making about new school places is now in the hands of the government."

Schools have been struggling to keep up with a surge in population, with high birth rates and immigration boosting population in many towns and cities.

The Government has already provided funding for 260,000 new school places in areas facing a shortage.

Now the LGA says changes in school policy, which mean local authorities cannot create new schools but instead rely on free school and academy providers - who are not accountable to councils - is compounding the problem.

The Department for Education has said it has provided local authorities with the funding they need for new places, and that it is now up to them to spend this money efficiently and effectively.

A DfE spokesman said: "We are giving local authorities £5bn to spend on new school places over this Parliament - double the amount allocated by the previous government over an equivalent period.

"This funding has already led to the creation of 260,000 new school places, all of which are in areas where there is a shortage of places, and many more new places are planned. We have also confirmed a further £2bn for basic need up to 2017.

"Investment in free schools comes on top of the £5bn we are giving to local authorities to spend on basic need. Seven in 10 free school places are in areas of basic need."

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