'Championing the rights of children'

Academies 'making shortage of school places worse'

Garry Fri 28 Jun 2013 08:30

Spending watchdog says non-expansion of independent schools could drive up pupil numbers in normal schools

Rapid expansion of the government's academy and free school programme has exacerbated a chronic shortage of places for children, the House of Commons' spending watchdog has warned.

Local authorities' inability to force publicly funded but independent schools to expand has meant that struggling direct-maintained schools could be forced to squeeze in more pupils, the public accounts committee has concluded.

MPs are concerned that the lack of space in many of these schools may lead to school buildings such as libraries or music rooms being turned into classrooms to meet the demand, it says.

The report follows a study released three months ago by the National Audit Office (NAO), which warned that by September 2014, an estimated extra 256,000 primary and secondary school places will be needed to meet demand. Of

these, 240,000 are required in primary schools, with more than a third needed in London alone.

Hours before the report was released, the Treasury chief secretary, Danny Alexander, announced plans to spend £7.5bn to create 500,000 new school places by 2021 in existing as well as new free schools and academies.

Margaret Hodge, the chair of the committee, said that the government has been forced to admit that it does not know if the money it is contributing towards new school places will be enough.

Read more... (The Guardian - 28 June)