Primary school places revealed as squeeze continues

Primary school Families are discovering which school their children will attend

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England is facing a "growing crisis" over primary school places, a teachers' leader has said, as parents find out where their children will attend.

Dr Mary Bousted, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, accused Education Secretary Michael Gove of failing to ensure places are available.

Early figures suggest tens of thousands of pupils will not get their first choices.

The government said it had doubled funding for new school places to £5bn.

It highlighted how it had allowed good schools to expand and said most families were getting their first choice of school.

'Not enough money'

But early figures indicate that a child's chances of achieving a first choice depends heavily on where they live, with almost all getting their top preference in some areas, and more than a third missing out in others.

Dr Bousted told the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) annual conference in Manchester: "We know that there is a growing crisis in primary school places and we know that the government, for all the money they say they are throwing at the problem, they simply haven't got the mechanism, they haven't got the ability, to plan school provision where it's needed.

"They have divested themselves of the levers to manage this situation.

"As soon as they prevented local authorities from building primary schools and they left it to the market, to free school providers and academy sponsors, they've come across two main problems."

She added: "Local authorities say that despite the extra money, there isn't enough money, and because of the land prices, it's very difficult for free schools to get established.

"It's no surprise that there's a crisis in primary school places, because the secretary of state, Michael Gove, has divested himself of his first key responsibility, which is to provide school places for children."

This year sees the first co-ordinated allocation of primary school places across England, with emails and letters about places being sent out on the same day. But data on the national picture will not be available for several weeks.

Fast-rising birthrate

However, early statistics show that in some London boroughs as few as six out of 10 children got their first choice. In Kensington & Chelsea just 61.6% (595) got their top preference, down from 65% (623) last year.

In neighbouring Hammersmith & Fulham, one in four (24.8%) children missed out on their first choice.

Across London as a whole 81% of children received their first choice, despite a 3% rise in pupil numbers.

In Bristol, 94% of children have been allocated one of their three preferences - with 82% getting their first choice.

And in Manchester, where there has been population growth, 87.5% were offered their first preference school. A total of 4.5% - 303 children - were offered places at schools that they had not chosen.

In Kent and in Medway, where more children applied this year, around 85% have got their first choice.

What if you are not happy

Local authorities have a duty to provide all pupils of school-age with a place in primary school.

Although they will attempt to meet as many top choices as possible, there is no obligation to meet all first preferences.

However, details of how to appeal will be contained within the offer letter, should a parental first preference not be met.

All appeals must be made in writing to the local council, which will inform parents of the appeal hearing date within 10 days.

It is wise to think carefully about what appeal grounds to use, as only in very few circumstances can admission authorities break the legal 30-pupil class size limits for infants.

This means that unless the case is very strong, an appeal will be turned down if the class in question already has 30 children.

Strong grounds for appeal would include cases where the admission arrangements have not been applied properly, where the decision to refuse your child a place is deemed unreasonable, or if the admissions criteria themselves do not meet the schools admissions code.

Parents should also set out any special circumstances that support the appeal.

The panel then decides the case and the result is posted to the appellants within seven days.

If the appeal is unsuccessful, parents can still put their child's name on a school's waiting list.

Primary places have been under increasing pressure, with many schools adding extra classes to keep pace with a fast-rising birthrate.

Between 2012 and last year, primary pupil numbers grew by almost 100,000 and councils say funding has failed to keep up.

Councils are calling for more powers over the opening of new schools as the pressures are set to grow in coming years.

The Department for Education published information showing how councils had "firm plans" for an extra 300,000 places - with a further 57,000 needed to meet the expected demand in the autumn of next year.

It also said that the numbers in primary school rose from 3.9 million in 2012 to more than 4.01 million in 2013.

And it revealed huge increases in some areas, such as Croydon, south London, where pupil numbers are expected to rise 44% between the summer of 2010 and autumn next year. In Barking & Dagenham there is an increase of 43%.

But the figures also show how this population surge is not reflected across the whole country, with more than 430,000 vacant places last year.

'Tackling underperformance'

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said this month that the government was failing to create school places where they were most needed.

Mr Hunt said the government had created a "crisis in school places" with more children in "temporary and unsuitable classrooms and children forced to travel further and further to get to school".

But the Department for Education said: "We are increasing the number of good school places by tackling underperformance and opening new free schools and academies. We have also more than doubled to £5bn the funding available to councils to create new school places, and are allowing good schools to expand without the restrictions and bureaucracy they faced in the past."

The Local Government Association wants councils to have power over building new schools to meet local demand, and it says that a survey shows such a change would have widespread public support.

Natalie Evans, director of New Schools Network - which supports the opening of free schools - said they were playing a vital role in helping address both quality and quantity in primary places.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 483.

    Is it against the law to show a picture of children in the uk where they are all white children? I mean a picture of several black or brown children is fine. A white child is not needed.

    This subtle but repeated reinforcement that somehow white children are worth less in our society is something the BBC should look to address.

  • rate this

    Comment number 482.

    481. Colin S

    Thing is though here's even more East Europeans coming into Germany than UK.
    And most of them speak German pretty well.
    But their schools seem to cope.

  • rate this

    Comment number 481.

    I gotta say, I'm shocked at the amount of immigrants from eastern Europe who actually speak English, a lot of people coming here do. I can't imagine why they would learn to speak a language they probably would never use in their own countries.

    If were paranoid, I'd think everything was engineered.

  • rate this

    Comment number 480.

    @473.Just a glimmer
    ' its effects upon communities when the newcomers do not integrate or become larger than the local people.'
    Ask what communities in certain areas of Valencia think about the English. We set up our own enclaves aboard as well but the add the insult of then expecting the locals to speak english.

  • rate this

    Comment number 479.

    The main reason I think immigration needs to be discussed is the impact it has on local amenities housing hospitals and schools.
    It is hardly likely that an elderly couple will immigrate into UK for a life of hard work and their children require schooling.

    More likely a case that young people from Eastern Bloc areas who tend to have larger families will REQUIRE more schooling resources SOONER.

  • rate this

    Comment number 478.


    Yes, and I would consider myself amongst them I'm afraid, but that is because knowledge is often worth more than money, if it can produce it, bonus. Exportable over importable. That's a nationalist view, a capitalist view, but they make the rules and our services suffer too, less to spend on education and the like..
    I wish it was all different. But what's to replace it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 477.

    I wouldn't blame immigration as much as poor planning by LEAs. When my daughter started infant school it was obvious that there was a shortage of places at our local school. The LEA didn't seem the slightest bit bothered - the attitude seemed to be that they wouldn't know until the applications came in despite increasing birth rates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 476.

    471. johnboy99

    Since you have clearly missed the metaphors I will talk numbers. They are freely available. The best estimate - and since no one actually knows how many people have come into the UK in the last 17 years it can only be estimate - is a net figure of 3 million.

    Enough for you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 475.

    Why so different in London? The article scratches at the surface, provides statistics, hints at what has caused this issue and then tries to tie it all to money. It appears that overall, the 'academy' and 'free school' systems simply don't really work and have been hijacked by persons creaming off incredible amounts of money for their own personal gain. Enjoy it UK as things will only get worse!

  • rate this

    Comment number 474.

    @466.Colin S
    If the world is educated we open up new markets.Unfortunately there are vested interests in keeping the worlds population uneducated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 473.

    I would openly second your statement, except that many in this country would call me a racist for speaking about immigration and its effects upon communities when the newcomers do not integrate or become larger than the local people.
    There are many Indian/Pakistan people where I live. They are getting pushed out by Poles and other Eastern Bloc peoples. Would "racist" tags apply?

  • rate this

    Comment number 472.

    How can children make life long friends with other kids if the school they have to go to is miles away? When I was a kid my friends were at school, we all lived close to each other, so in the holidays we were together. Its the bedrock of what makes strong communities. Kids should go to the local school, if its not very good improve it don't close it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 471.

    @468. SJH
    Thought not, you just made it up....

  • rate this

    Comment number 470.

    I suggest that those posters blaming this problem purely on “immigrants” read the article again.

    The figures suggest that it is a nationwide problem although it seems that children in areas with a substantial non-white population have a better chance of getting their first choice of school than those from places with largely “white British” inhabitants, which rather confounds the argument.

  • rate this

    Comment number 469.

    @468. SJH
    It appears no one told the last Labour Government that when they decided to let the world and his wife come and live here the world and his wife also had children.
    Do you have any numbers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    It appears no one told the last Labour Government that when they decided to let the world and his wife come and live here the world and his wife also had children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 467.

    Everything's great, there aren't any problems other than the ones the Tory's bring. Thanks bbc for keeping us all so well informed!

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    I think educating the world or helping to is a great plus to the species, but the negatives come back to haunt us from the nationalistic point of view via economic competition, especially when you've attached economic aid packages. It was inevitable. So, damage done, we make money in it's continuance and hope we can trade in the goods we don't make.

    I'll remember MIT :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    @ 410. Paul

    “I think when people say immigrant in this context they don't mean Australians, New Zealanders etc.”

    No, they don’t, you’re right. The term is used almost exclusively to describe non-whites. That says a lot about the views of people who use it that way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    Astrological forces and earthquakes causing the Black Death throughout Europe in the 14th century. Infant death and crop failure due to witchcraft in Salem 1692. Bad air causing Cholera in London in 1849. A Jewish conspiracy, linking international finance with Bolshevism - Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler 1926. Now lack of investment in education due to immigration UK 2014? Get real!


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