UK & World News

  • 16 April 2014, 19:52

School Places: Parents Warned About 'Crisis'

Families are facing a "growing crisis" when it comes to getting their children into primary schools, the head of a teaching union has said.

The warning comes as figures indicate tens of thousands of youngsters have missed out on their first choice of school.

One school in Bristol was so oversubscribed it had 4,000 applicants competing for just 40 places.

Council across England have been warned they must increase school capacity by 20% by 2016 if they are to cope with the increasing number of children.

Dr Mary Bousted, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, accused the Education Secretary Michael Gove of failing to deliver on his main responsibility "to provide school places for the nation's children".

For the first time parents across the country learned whether their children had secured places at the school of their choice on the same day.

The picture emerging on National Offer Day showed significant disparities across the country, with an expected one in five children missing out on their first choice in areas such as Bristol and London.

According to the Local Government Association, some areas - Costessey in Norfolk, Purfleet in Essexand central Croydonin south London - will see 75% more pupils than school places by next year.

The increasing squeeze on school places has been blamed on a rising birth rate and the impact of immigration.

Dr Mary Bousted said: "We know there is a growing crisis in primary school places and we know the Government, for all the money they say they are throwing at the problem, simply haven't got the mechanism (or) the ability to plan school provision where it's needed.

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

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

The Department for Education said it has given councils more than 5bn to establish new school places, with more than 260,000 created already.

But Lydia Gibbs, primary teaching and curriculum lead for the Reach Academy in Feltham, west London, said: "There is a shortage of primary school places throughout the country.

"There is a sense of competition that parents would love to have their children come to our school. I know that because we were oversubscribed for reception places."

Last year the school had 160 applications for just 60 primary school places.

Bristol Cathedral School received 100 applications for each of its 40 places.

Lou Birbeck, whose twin girls failed to win spaces there, said it was hardly surprising her application had been unsuccessful, given the level of competition.

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