Call for more school places to meet demand

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Belvedere Academy received nearly five times the amount of school places it has to offer. Pic © Rept0n1x / Wikimedia Creative Commons

Belvedere Academy received nearly five times the amount of applicants for the school places it has to offer. Pic © Rept0n1x / Wikimedia Creative Commons

A new report is calling for councils to be given powers to provide all children with school places, after applications are exceeding the amount on offer.

A report from the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents 370 councils across the country, urges powers to be ‘given back’ to local authorities, claiming that they need to open new schools or expand current ones to make sure every child gets a place.

According to Liverpool City Council, out of 30 secondary schools across the city only a small percentage of applicants receive their first choice.

Nick Small, Cabinet member for Education, Employment and Skills, told JMU Journalism: “The council is working very closely with schools. We secured £15 million last year so we could expand the number of school places in particular parts of the city where they need to be expanded. That work is ongoing.”

Belvedere Academy had 583 applicants for the current academic year and only 120 places to offer and 32.9% of successful applicants received their first preference school. Elsewhere, Belle Vale Community Primary School received 39 applications with only 30 places. However, 100% of people received their first preference place.

Louise Smith, Senior Media Relations Officer at the Local Government Association, told JMU Journalism: “Local councils had powers to build new schools removed from them during the coalition government – however, the duty to make sure every child has a place remains with them.

“We already know that more places will be needed, so we need to start planning for that now. To do that, we’re asking for councils to have the power to either build new schools, or compel academies.

“Councils need to be at the heart of school place planning as they know their areas best, and they know where the areas of demand are and will be going forward.”

Cllr Roy Perry, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Councils have a statutory duty to ensure every child has a school place available to them but find themselves in the difficult position of not being able to ensure schools, including academies, expand.”

As well as being given powers to build schools themselves if necessary, the LGA believes that funding allocations should be provided in five-year blocks to allow councils to work with local schools to financially plan long-term.

Cllr Small added: “I think it’s important that we listen to what parents want for their children and try to give as many as possible their first choice. It’s important that everyone gets a decent place.”

About Sophie Sear, JMU Journalism