Town halls ‘face £1bn shortfall for school places’

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COUNCILS have been forced to cut back on school repairs and building projects and to borrow money to plug a £1bn black hole in funding for school places, it has been claimed.

More than three-quarters of authorities in England say they have not received enough money from the Government to create the extra school places needed in their area in the five-year period to 2016/17, according to a poll by the Local Government Association (LGA).

It warns councils are facing a challenge to create places on time and in the right areas when their budgets are already stretched.

The findings come amid concerns about a squeeze on school places that has been fuelled in part by a rising birth rate and changes in local populations.

Local councils were asked by the LGA if money provided by the Department for Education (DfE) had fully met the cost of providing school places between 2011/12 and 2016/17. Of those that responded – around 79 councils – a total of 77 per cent said the funding had not been enough.

The total amount of money these councils said they were short by came to £1.06bn, which means the overall shortfall across England is likely to be higher, the LGA said today.

More than a third of the councils who said they did not receive enough funding said they had borrowed money, two-thirds used money from developers, and half used cash from other school projects.

A new poll also shows many parents worry their child’s education would be damaged by a “supersize” primary school. The Netmums survey reveals parents are concerned about the impact of large class sizes, with concerns raised about a lack of equipment, classroom discipline and children not getting enough attention.