Urgent shortage in primary school places

By Liz Stephens

The government is expected to announce an additional £200 million this week for extra primary school places to cover a shortage in parts of England.

London councils reported they had a shortfall of 2,250 places this year.

However, this will more than double by next year and reach 18,300 by 2014, the councils said.

London and the West Midlands have been hardest hit with rising birth rates and the effects of the recession on private schools cited as the main reasons for the increase in demand.

In the worst-hit areas, councils have been building temporary classrooms to cope.

The government criticised local councils for not planning ahead even though population projections were available.

However, the London borough of Richmond said there was no way it could have predicted the eight per cent reduction in the number of children being educated privately.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) said too many schools were closed when the birth rate was falling, meaning there is no capacity in the system now.

A spokesman for the Department for Children Schools and Families said: “Local authorities are under a legal duty to ensure sufficient school places are available to meet parental demand across their areas.”

The department is expected to set out the next steps in full to parliament within the week.

Meanwhile, it wasn’t just a shortage of primary school places that was highlighted today.

The Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) said it is launching a nationwide campaign later today to tackle the shortfall in male teaching staff in primary schools.

The TDA says it has seen a 30 per cent rise in inquiries from men, but four out of five applicants are still female.

Supporters say boys in particular need more male role models in the classroom.