Revealed: The real shortage of school places

Rise in birth rate in the UK has put primary schools under pressure to meet demand

Thousands of parents have not yet found a state primary school for their children for the start of the new school year in September. A survey completed by 59 of the 150 local councils in England revealed that more than 3,600 parents were still on their books as having not yet accepted a state school place. A handful, just over 100, had not even been offered one.

If this picture were reflected across the country it would mean that about 9, 000 parents are facing a dilemma over school places for their children.

Statisticians say a rise in the birth rate has created the need for an extra 256,000 primary school places by 2015. The Department for Education insists that an extra 190,000 places will have been created by this September, and £5bn is earmarked for new school places by 2015. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced in last week's Spending Review that a further 500,000 school places would be created between 2015 and 2021.

Margaret Morrissey, of the parents' pressure group Parents Outloud, said: "I've been involved in education for 20 years and every year it gets slightly worse. What is so soul-destroying and so distressing is that it doesn't seem to matter which party is in control – none of them are interested enough to go on and solve this."

Local authority officials pointed out that many of those still on their books might have abandoned their search and decided to opt for an independent school, or to educate their child at home – an alternative which has grown in popularity with up to 80,000 parents now doing it. Some officials argued that, as they were still keeping places open at schools where parents had refused to send their child, it was wrong to say those children did not have a school place. However, Mrs Morrissey said: "That sounds like Stalinist Russia speaking – there is this school place and you will go to it even though we know you don't want to send your child there."

The figures will fuel the controversy over the shortage of primary school places which re-emerged last week with a highly critical report from the influential Commons Public Accounts Committee. This said that many schools had been forced to abandon library spaces, music rooms and playgrounds to build emergency classrooms. The report criticised the Department for Education under successive regimes and councils for not responding quickly enough to rising birth rates between 2001 and 2011.

Some applications for a school place remain unsettled because local authorities are not convinced they are bona fide, believing the parent may have put down a false address or rented a property near the school to get their child into a school with a good record.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: "We are building more free schools, letting the most popular schools expand and intervening to drive up standards in weak primaries which have thousands of empty places simply because parents don't want to send their children there."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin visits her 1990s work ‘My Bed’ at Tate Britain in London, where it is back on display from today
artsBut how does the iconic work stand up, 16 years on?
Life and Style
life + style
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Imperial College London: Safety Training Administrator

£25,880 – £28,610 per annum: Imperial College London: Imperial College London ...

University College London: Client Platform Support Officer

£26,976 - £31,614 per annum: University College London: UCL Information Servic...

Guru Careers: Instructional Designer / e-Learning Designer

£30 - 32k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking an Instructional / e-Learning De...

Recruitment Genius: Schools Education & Careers Executive

£30500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Schools Education & Careers Executive ...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor