Councils to split £15m to tackle major shortage of school places

MORE than £15m has been approved to help two Yorkshire cities tackle a major shortage of school places.

Leeds and Bradford both urgently need more school spaces to cope with rising birth rates with one MP warning that the system was “bursting at the seams”.

Education Secretary Michael Gove told MPs yesterday that an extra £500m had been allocated to councils facing the most pressing need.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

He said the cash would mainly allow councils to pay for small primary school capital projects.

Leeds has got an extra £8.2m while Bradford has received £7.4m. York got £1.5m and Kirklees was awarded £581,723. The £500m nationally comes in addition to £800m announced earlier in the year.

In total, Yorkshire has now received about £80m to fund the expansion of schools to meet demand.

Education bosses in Leeds and Bradford welcomed the extra money announced yesterday.

Councillor Judith Blake, executive member responsible for children’s services at Leeds Council said: “We are delighted that the work we have put in to our basic need programme has been recognised and that we have been allocated this funding for our school expansion programme, which has been in place since 2009.

“Through this programme we have already created 560 new reception places between 2009 and 2011. The school expansions are necessary to meet the increased demand for primary-age places caused by a rising birth rate and an increase in the number of families moving into certain areas of the city.”

Earlier this year Leeds Council approved a £9.5m investment to expand Roundhay High, Carr Manor High School, Bracken Edge Primary and Wykebeck Primary as part of its city-wide plan

Coun Ralph Berry, Bradford Council’s executive member for Children and Young People’s Services, said: “We are pleased that the pressure on school places and the need for new accommodation has been recognised in the allocation of additional funding for 2011/12. There is a continuing need for funding in the future in order to continue to develop the necessary provision for our children and young people.”

By 2016, Bradford is expected to need an extra 5,000 primary and secondary school places.

Last year a council report warned that the district’s population was projected to surge from 506,000 to 649,400 by 2020, as Bradford experiences the fastest-growing population of all major UK cities.

Bradford East’s Liberal Democrat MP David Ward said: “Our system is bursting at the seams and this money will help us provide some of the extra capacity we need straight away. Investment in schools also helps boost local businesses and create jobs in the construction industry.

“However we still have a long way to go and extra cash won’t solve all of our problems overnight. As well as providing more school places we also have to deal with a £50m backlog in basic repairs.”

Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland said: “With school capacity in Leeds currently under pressure, this funding will be a hugely welcome boost that I am sure will have a positive effect across the city.”

Councils in Yorkshire could receive more cash to create schools under the Priority Schools Rebuilding Programme. Funding plans will be announced by the Government later this year.