According to a new report by London Councils, over the next five years, boroughs in London are facing a shortfall of 113,000 school places and a £1.5bn gap in funding. Cllr Peter John, executive member for children, skills and employment, explains.
At the beginning of September thousands of children were able to start primary and secondary school thanks to London’s schools and boroughs working hard to create places.
In the past five years, London’s school population has grown by 91,000 at primary level and 21,000 at secondary level. Demand will only increase over time due to local housing growth and the popularity of London’s education system, where pupils have consistently achieved the best results for Key Stage 2 exams and GCSEs across the country.
The government has already invested £963m to help boroughs pay for new places over the next three years. Boroughs and schools are using this funding to create as many good quality places as possible. The Department for Education is also expanding school capacity by opening free schools.
However, London Councils’s Do the Maths 2015 report shows that London boroughs are facing a funding shortfall of £1.5bn between now and 2020 if they are to create the 113,000 places needed over the next five years. To put this into context, the capital’s demand for school places represents 24% of the total needed in the UK in this period of time.
Meeting this challenge is not an easy task. Many primary schools have already been expanded, and converting unused rooms or IT suites into classrooms has already been considered. Now innovative and creative projects are needed, including building new classrooms, reconfiguring existing sites and constructing new schools.
At the same time, London’s historic primary growth has meant there is an emerging need for more places in secondary schools as well, generating an unprecedented dual pressure on London’s education system.
Unlike primary children, who can use the same classroom for most of their lessons, pupils at secondary schools need subject-specific rooms, such as science labs, design technology suites and food technology rooms, so builders require more land to build classrooms and install specialist equipment, as well as longer planning time.
London borough leaders are committed to ensuring that there are enough school places for children in London and will work with the government to address the challenges we’ve highlighted in our report. Councils have a wealth of experience when it comes to creating places and with the right support we can achieve our goals.
Read the the Do The Maths 2015 report in full.