19 September 2013

Local authorities are calling on the Government for greater clarity on the management of school places following a survey by the Local Government Information Unit (LgiU) think tank in conjunction with the National Union of Teachers (NUT).

Their survey of 95 Children’s Services to assess the effectiveness of the existing school place planning powers revealed that the role of councils has become quite unclear now that more than half of secondary schools are academies or free schools which are independent of local authorities and accountable to the Secretary of State.

This has led to the creation of gaps in accountability, admissions monitoring, school support services and school place planning.

“Standing room only — have we enough schools places?” concludes that a “middle tier” is required to provide a strategic oversight of all schools and that local government is best placed to perform this role.

The NUT has launched “The School Place Crisis” campaign to avoid predicted shortfalls of up to 40% by 2016 in some London boroughs, claiming that the free schools policy and the lack of local authority involvement in school planning are responsible for the shortage of places where they are “desperately needed”.

Christine Blower, NUT General Secretary, said: “As a result of the Government’s academy and free schools programme, local councils find themselves in the untenable position of having responsibility for providing quality primary and secondary places but no power to plan, commission or build schools. We need to see an end to this totally chaotic approach to education provision.”