Another day, another terrifying warning about the shortage of school places that Michael Gove/Ed Balls/George Osborne/Gordon Brown [delete to taste] has left us with.
This time it’s from the Local Government Association, which warns that two thirds of councils in England and Wales will need to create a lot more primary school places before September 2016.
And some of the biggest gaps are – well there’s a shock – in this fair city. No fewer than six of the 10 councils in the direst straits are London boroughs. Worst of all is Croydon, which needs a 39% increase in capacity – an extra 11,000 primary school places – within just three years. But other boroughs facing shortfalls of 20% or more include (deep breath) Waltham Forest, Newham, Hounslow, Redbridge, Ealing, Lewisham, Barking & Dagenham AND Sutton.
At the other end of the scale, both Camden and Islington will have slightly more places than they need. But, with differences of 1% and 3% respectively, it’s within the margin of error – close enough, in other words, that today’s predictions might prove to be utterly wrong.
Yesterday, London Councils – the LGA’s smaller, more local brother – also waded into this debate, claiming that London would need to create 83,470 new (primary and secondary) school places between 2014 and 2017. This, it said, in one of the odder comparisons we’ve read today, was “equivalent to 151 full size football pitches” (rather than, say, some classrooms).
Yet, with 42% of the gap, London is receiving just 36% of the funds meant to fix it. This, the body said grumpily, would force councils to spend £9,000 for every pupil to plug the gap – a figure so high that we suspect that either
a) emergency measures will be required, or
b) London Councils has mucked up its maths.
We’ve expounded our theory on how this one is, well, everyone’s fault before, so won’t bore you with it again. Suffice it to say that the LGA has today decided to lump part of the blame on Michael Gove’s academy policies, under which councils have a lot fewer powers to tell many of the schools in their areas to expand. This hasn’t caused the problem, but it won’t make it easier to fix it.
Image courtesy of ChrisGoldNY, taken from the Londonist Flickr pool.