Planning of school places is haphazard, says NAHT

By agency reporter
March 4, 2018

As families find out which secondary school their children have been allocated, the National Union of Head Teachers (NAHT) says the government is not fulfilling a basic duty of care for the thousands of pupils who have missed out on a place at the secondary school of their choice.

Paul Whiteman, General Secretary of NAHT, commented, “Until the government sorts its act out and comes up with a national strategy to guarantee there are enough school places for every child in England, the annual anxious wait for families will always be a problem.

“For too many, there will be huge disappointment. In some parts of the country, it will mean children having to travel long distances to go to secondary school or being separated from their peers.  Last year alone, almost 93,000 young people missed out on the school which was their first preference.

“It’s an issue which isn’t going away. The massive increase in pupil numbers over the next few years, particularly at secondary age, will only make it harder. Integrated local planning of school places across maintained, academy and free schools is vital to ensure sufficient provision in all areas of the country.

“Local authorities are responsible for ensuring sufficient school places but the powers and resources necessary to do so have been removed. They are unable to require academies to expand, for example. In an increasingly fragmented school system we lack a co-ordinated approach to place planning. Instead it’s haphazard; decisions are being made in isolation and new schools and new school places are not always being commissioned in the areas they are most needed.

“The government’s own figures show that an extra 654,000 school places will be needed in England by 2026, to meet the nine per cent rise in pupil population.  There is a desperate need for long-term planning that spans all sectors. Schools are facing a £3 billion shortfall in funding by 2019, with 98 per cent set to be worse off at a time when costs are rising and pupil numbers are growing.

“Not only that but the cuts to front-line teaching posts combined with a rise in pupil-to-classroom teacher ratios, mean bigger classes and less individual attention for children. It’s no surprise that the number of teachers in secondary schools has fallen by five per cent, from 219,000 in 2010 to 208,200 in 2016.

“Until some agency at the local or regional level has the information and the clout to prioritise school places where they are most needed, parents and children will always be unsure that the system will give them what they want."

* NAHT http://www.naht.org.uk/#

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