Alarming figures out last week show that the Government have created a primary school places crisis, with an additional 240,000 primary places needed by 2015.
The Government’s failure on primary places was exposed again last week as we learnt that the Spending Review gave no guarantee that new places would go towards addressing the primary shortfall. Instead, the Government is prioritising capital investment on more Free Schools – many of which are being set up in areas with no shortage of places, while those areas with a desperate need for places are ignored. The crisis is getting worse, with a sharp rise in infant class sizes exceeding 30 pupils and growing numbers of children being taught in temporary overspill buildings.
We can’t go on like this. We need urgent action but the Government has no plan to address this crisis of its own making. Construction for the Priority Schools Building Programme that was announced two years ago has started at only one school. Of the places created under the Free Schools programme last year, only a third of places were in primary schools.
We need a better vision for creating new schools, with qualified teachers, opening them where they are needed, where there is real parent demand and holding them up to the same high standards as other schools.