THE BLOG
24/07/2013 13:35 BST | Updated 23/09/2013 06:12 BST

Michael Gove's End of Term Report

The danger is that because the Government is failing to manage the bulge, schools will be forced to cut down on outdoor play space, close music rooms and libraries, or crowd children into unsuitable classrooms. All this threatens the quality of teaching and learning for young children. Labour would address the primary crisis by focussing spending on the areas of the country where there is a real need for extra classes. We would end the Government's nonsensical rules which stop councils addressing the capacity crunch head on.

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While children in many areas of the country will be celebrating the end of term today and looking forward to the summer holidays, many parents will be worried over the next few months.

The immediate worry will be sorting out childcare arrangements over the holiday. Those not lucky enough to be able to afford a private nanny or nursery will be forced to take time off work or scramble around for help from friends or family. They will get little help from this Government. While Labour tripled the number of places at holiday childcare clubs, David Cameron and Michael Gove have removed help for hardworking families. Costs have spiralled and the number of councils providing holiday childcare for four- to seven-year-olds has almost halved since 2009.

The longer concern will be going back to school in September. The Government has created a huge crisis in school places, particularly at primary. If your child turns four or five this year, you will be familiar with the struggle to find a good school place. When your child starts term in September it is now more likely that their classroom will be a temporary classroom on the playground or a converted music room.

The number of infant children in crowded classrooms of over 30 has doubled just in the last year since Michael Gove relaxed the rules Labour had in place to keep class sizes down.

Official figures show there could be a shortage of 120,000 primary school places by September.

Why is the Government failing to create enough spaces? First, they cut the capital budget for buildings by nearly 60%, despite warnings of a rising population. Then they wasted millions of pounds setting up free schools in areas where there isn't a shortage of places.

Schools and councils are being forced to take desperate measures.

In London, one council is looking to convert an MFI warehouse and even teach primary school children in a converted pub.

In Manchester, one school is so crowded it has to have five different lunch shifts in the sports hall meaning pupils get hungry again in the afternoon. The head says she can't provide every child with a gym and dance lesson because there's not enough time available in the hall.

The school places crisis is a huge threat to standards, as an independent report out from the Public Accounts Committee warned. They said Michael Gove's "department does not sufficiently understand the risks to children's learning and development."

The danger is that because the Government is failing to manage the bulge, schools will be forced to cut down on outdoor play space, close music rooms and libraries, or crowd children into unsuitable classrooms. All this threatens the quality of teaching and learning for young children.

Labour would address the primary crisis by focussing spending on the areas of the country where there is a real need for extra classes. We would end the Government's nonsensical rules which stop councils addressing the capacity crunch head on.

Labour would also ensure there are more good schools for parents to choose from, as we did through our academies programme, and schemes like Teach First. We would also end the scandal of schools being allowed to permanently employ unqualified teachers.

It is a pretty basic requirement that the Government ensures there are enough school places for our children. As we get to the end of term, David Cameron and Michael Gove's report card looks like it will say: 'failed'.