Councils seek power to expand class sizes


Local authorities will have no ability under the education white paper to enlarge classes, despite being legally responsible to offer places to all children, reports the Guardian.

Local authorities say they want new powers to provide classroom places if the government presses ahead with plans to turn all schools into academies. This is because the Local Government Association, which represents councils across England, said it was worried councils were still legally responsible for ensuring all children were offered a school place, but that under the education white paper they have no powers to directly create places to meet shortages.

Roy Perry, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “If proposals within the education white paper go forward, and all schools convert to academies, councils must be given powers to force schools to expand where this is in the best interests of new and existing pupils.

“Most academies will be keen to work with their local authorities but in the minority of situations where this isn’t the case, appropriate powers are vital to ensure all children get a suitable place.”

Councils are currently able to expand existing maintained primary schools, but they will lose that ability if all schools become academies by 2022.

A DfE document showed that of 121 local authorities, 49 estimated that the proportion of preferences offered to families would be the same as last year while 40 said it was likely to be better. But a quarter of councils said the position was likely to be worse.

A spokesperson for the DfE said: Ensuring every child has a school place is one of the key duties council will continue to hold in a system where every school is an academy.

“Councils have always relied on their strong relationships with local schools to deliver the places needed – this will not change as more school convert to become academies.

“Despite rising pupil numbers, at primary, the number of pupils in excess of their school’s capacity has fallen by a quarter since 2010, and average class sizes have seen little change.”

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