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Tory Primary Places Shortage: A Crisis of Their Own Making

Posted: 09/09/2013 00:00

As pupils began and returned for the start of the new school year, the true extent of David Cameron and Michael Gove's primary school places crisis has been revealed this week. More than three years into this parliament, the warnings have been loud and clear for some time. The responsibility for this crisis rests squarely at the door of this Government.

The word crisis is often deployed for hyperbolic effect. The thousands of parents sending their children into 'bulge classrooms'- classes with more than 30 infants- will not see this as hyperbole. They want to know why the Government has failed in one of its most foremost duties in education- to provide a proper school place for every child.

Analysis published today by the Labour Party reveals that the number of primary schools with more than 800 pupils- so called 'titan schools'- has trebled since 2010. The Government's own figures show that the number of classes with more than 30 infants has more than doubled in the past year.

The Education Secretary took to the airways on Tuesday, grandstanding on his record. He told BBC news that his free schools programme held the solution. Not so. Analysis of the latest official figures shows that 51% of the free schools that have opened won't tackle the school places crisis, as they have been built in areas where there are already enough places.

As David Cameron and Michael Gove continue bury their heads in the sand, the situation is only set to get worse; as a number of cross party organisations have warned this week.

On Monday, a report by London Councils- the body representing London's 33 boroughs- warned of the chronic shortages forecast for the capital, a region which is already overcapacity.

On Tuesday, a second report- this time from the Local Government Association- revealed that within two years, almost half of all areas in England will have more pupils than places.

Michael Gove has three main faults that explain how he has got us into this mess.
First, he prioritised his free school programme, delivering new places in areas where there are no shortages.

Second, he failed to secure a fair deal for capital spending in education. The cut to education capital is greater than that of all other government departments.

Third, he has refused to give Local Authorities the power to set up schools to respond to shortages- a practical solution to ease the pressure- because of his ideological hostility to local government.

In the Conservative Party manifesto in 2010, the Tories promised to 'give every parent access to a good school' and that 'our schools revolution will create a new generation of good small schools with smaller class sizes'.

The reality couldn't be more different.

Triple the number of titan schools; double the number of infants in classes of more than 30 pupils; and a free school programme that targets capital investment away from areas of need. Worse still, there is no sign (in light of this evidence) of a change of course from this out of touch Government.

 

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