Council ready to combat school place shortages

A new building has been built at Deanery High School
A new building has been built at Deanery High School
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Wigan Council has assured residents that school places are not under threat despite dire warnings that thousands of children face missing out on secondary school slots across the country by 2022.

The Local Government Assosciation has said that almost half of councils (49 per cent) are at risk of being unable to meet rising demand for secondary school places within the next five years.

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According to the LGA, councils urgently need powers to force academies and free schools to expand if places are in desperate need and a voluntary agreement cannot be released.

With nearly two thirds of secondary schools now academies, the LGA believes that is the only way to make sure councils can fulfil their statutory duty to ensure every child has a school place.

The town hall has assured parents that it is doing all it can to make sure that school places will be available “in the right areas at the right time.”

Alan Lindsay, assistant director for education at Wigan Council, said: “We use sophisticated modelling to help us locate where demand for school places will be and in recent years have undertaken a number of expansions to schools to accommodate areas where pockets of growth in places provision has been needed to help maintain a good balance to meet demand.

“Some secondary schools have already been expanded to meet the rise in demand. This increase is set to continue as the high number of pupils currently in our primary schools will require secondary school places from 2019 and beyond.”

A surge in demand for primary school places has seen councils help deliver an additional 600,000 primary school places since 2010. This has been achieved mostly by expanding existing council maintained primary schools, where councils have the powers they need to require schools to expand.

The LGA analysis reveals that unless more secondary school places are created, 12 local authorities will face a secondary school place shortfall in 2018/19.

Mr Lindsay added: “This is an ongoing process and we are always assessing whether we anticipate an increase in demand for places will be met by the current supply and where that might fall short looking at the most suitable options to address the issues such as increasing the number of classes in schools.

“Our school place projections include the likely impact of increased pupil numbers from any future housing developments. This is to ensure there are enough quality school places available in the right areas at the right time.”