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Last Updated: Monday, 4 August, 2003, 11:08 GMT 12:08 UK
Popular schools can expand
Secondary schools can receive up to 500,000 to increase pupil numbers

Popular secondary schools are to be encouraged to expand, with the government announcing funding for new classrooms.

This is aimed at reducing the frustration of families which want to send their children to a successful local school, but are unable to find a place.

From September, it will become easier for oversubscribed schools to take more pupils - a move which is intended to help schools which have to turn away large numbers of applicants.

There will be 37m funding for next year, which will provide up to a maximum of 500,000 for individual secondary schools. If schools take the maximum allowance, this would mean that 74 schools would benefit.

This funding will reduce the obstacles faced by schools wanting to increase their intake - providing cash that a local education authority might not be able or willing to provide.

And a Department for Education and Skills spokesperson said that local school organisation committees would be encouraged to accept applications.

'Frustration'

"Some schools have become victims of their own success, each year always having to turn pupils away. This causes frustration and disappointment for all concerned - for head teachers, parents and children," said School Standards Minister, David Miliband.

"We're determined to give more pupils and parents the chance to attend high quality schools, therefore we are making it easier for popular schools to expand."

But there have been fears that allowing successful schools to expand could have adverse consequences for other local schools.

Drawing more pupils into a successful school could mean that less successful schools are pushed into a downward spiral of fewer pupils, less funding and lower standards.

And the government says that applications for expansion will be declined if "there is evidence the school's expansion will have a damaging effect on standards overall in the area".

This could raise the prospect of disagreements between local authorities concerned about the overall provision of school places - and parents who are interested in getting their children into specific schools.

The government also says that when new schools are being planned, parents, community groups and local businesses should be able to make proposals about the type of school to be opened.

But the Conservatives rejected the announcement as only paying lip-service to the idea of parental choice.

"The government is inching towards acceptance of Conservative policy on these issues, but is still afraid to be bold," said the Conservative education spokesperson, Damian Green.

"What we need is real parental choice, not choice directed by the education department. Until the government reduces its mania for central planning, exciting new ideas in education will be stifled. Ministers talk the right language, but cannot bring themselves to introduce real local choice in schools."




SEE ALSO:
Parents lose on school appeals
14 Feb 03  |  Education
Admissions cost school 20,000
24 Apr 01  |  Education
Schools told off for selecting pupils
09 May 02  |  Education


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