Page last updated at 12:32 GMT, Wednesday, 11 November 2009

City faces school places shortage

Generic primary school shot
Rising birth rates has been identified as a factor in rising demand for places

More than 50,000 extra primary school places will be needed in London over the next seven years, according to a report by a lobby group.

London Councils, which represents the city's 33 councils, also claimed the government had not provided enough money to tackle the shortfall.

It said £880m was needed to provide all the places but £361m has been provided.

The Department of Children, Schools and Families said it was listening to London Council's concerns.

London Councils' report, Understanding Primary School Capacity Issues, found evidence collected last month showed in the next seven years, the capital will need an extra 50,710 places for children, with at least 2,045 required by next September.

'Woefully under-predicted'

It said 20 authorities had a shortfall of primary school places or will do by the end of 2010, while 28 boroughs predicted they will face problems over the next seven years.

City faces school places shortage

It blamed the situation on rising birth rates, the drop in the number of people sending children to private schools in the midst of the recession, and funding problems.

London Councils said the sums given to boroughs by ministers were "nowhere near sufficient" to cover refurbishment costs and to meet the "huge growth in demand".

A sum of £361m allocated to London boroughs in 2007 for the primary capital programme "woefully under-predicted London's need for sufficient capital to provide new school buildings", the report said.

'Caught out'

It acknowledged that more funding might be provided as a result of changes, expected to be announced by the Department for Children Schools and Families (DCSF), to the distribution of £200m additional cash.

The report said: "Even councils adopting the most rigorous approach to school place planning could not have predicted the dramatic movements in demand for primary school places they have seen over the past 12-24 months, and they are not alone.

"The DCSF's funding system was caught out too."

A DCSF spokesman said there had been sustained investment in school buildings over the last decade but added: "Local authorities by law must assess the demand for places and plan ahead.

"Birth rate has been rising nationally since 2001 and we have already specifically given funding last year to deal with high projected pupil growth.

"It is clear that while some local authorities are facing exceptional, unanticipated rises in demand for reception-age pupils, others simply did not plan or budget effectively for how rising birth rates would affect them locally."

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