Yorkshire cities facing schools places crisis

Coun Judith Blake
Coun Judith Blake
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MAJOR cities across Yorkshire could have more primary school pupils than there are places available by next year, according to new analysis by town hall chiefs.

Tables published today show Bradford, Hull, Leeds and Sheffield could face shortages for the 2016/17 school year and York could run out of places by 2018.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said its analysis of official figures indicates that by September next year, two in five local authorities in England - 66 out of 152 - will have more children ready to start school than there are currently places.

And by 2017/18 this will increase to more than half (85 areas) and go up to three in five dealing with more pupils than places (94 areas) in 2018/19.

The LGA said councils have created more than 300,000 primary school places since May 2010, with many increasing class sizes, diverting money from repair programmes and converting areas such as music rooms into classrooms. However it said the situation had now reached a “tipping point” where councils may no longer be able to fund extra places to make up the shortfall. It called on the incoming government to hand councils enough cash and powers to open new schools and be able to order academies to expand to meet demand. David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “The next government must commit to fully fund the creation of all new school places and give councils the powers to open new schools once again, before time runs out and we are faced with a national crisis. Councils face an uphill battle creating places where they are needed when their hands are tied by red tape and they are short of money to do so. This tipping point is the biggest challenge the next education secretary will face.”

He added: “Councils and schools have been doing everything they can to provide school places, in some cases going to extraordinary lengths by expanding schools where possible through additional classes or new buildings. However, if councils are not given powers to open new schools we could see extreme measures taken, such as converting music rooms into classrooms and putting portable buildings on their playgrounds.”

The LGA figures show that in Leeds by 2016/17 there will be demand for 67,243 primary school places - 105 per cent of the current total available. It says this will increase to 107 per cent by 2018/19. In Bradford the figure will be 55,819, an increase of more than 2,000 on the current academic year and 101 per cent of the places available. Hull is expected to need 22,926 places by next year - 103 per cent of the places available.

Coun Judith Blake, Leeds City Council’s executive member for children’s services said: “We have worked out that we are facing a shortfall of around £37m for all the work that needs doing providing places in Leeds. We have some very tough negotiations coming up with the Government about this.”