Labour criticises government over school 'crisis'

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Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg has accused the government of being complacent about an upcoming "crisis" in the number of primary school places.

During the first education questions session of the new term, on 9 September 2013, Mr Twigg said "we have a crisis in primary school places. Last week the secretary of state told us that free schools would solve this [crisis], but next year only one in three of the free schools that will open are primary schools. How does this solve the problem?".

Mr Twigg asked the government if it would "change course, even at this stage, and give absolute top priority in capital spending for new school places in areas that actually need extra places?"

Schools Minster David Laws said: "If [he] had been doing his home work he would know that the vast majority of new free schools are opening in areas of basic need."

He added: "What many people in this house, and outside will detect in the Labour party - in the same way it did over Syria - of offering criticism but no serious policy solutions."

The debate comes days after the Local Government Association warned that some parts of England could have twice as many pupils as available primary school places within a few years.

The report said that the pressures are leading to some schools having to convert music rooms and libraries into classroom, reduce playground space or are having to expand classes beyond the statutory 30 children per class.

The crisis has been caused by the UK birth rate rising more quickly than at any time since the 1950s, rising immigration and families are being priced out of the private sector.

To cope with the crisis some councils, including Barking and Dagenham council in East London - which has six of the ten largest primary schools in the country, are considering implementing a three day week in their primary schools.

The plans would see the borough's 21,430 primary-age pupils split between two groups with half a school's pupils attending lessons from 8am to 6pm on Monday to Wednesday while the other half are taught from Thursday to Saturday.

Other questions in the session focused on encouraging sport in primary schools and plans for children in the care system.

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