Ensure councils remain ‘at the heart’ of school place planning, says LGA

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called for councils to ‘remain at the heart’ of school place planning, warning that the legal duty of councils to ensure every child has access to a school place could be made undeliverable otherwise.

The LGA argues that academies should be required to expand to meet the demand for school places, and that councils should be given the power to build schools themselves if academies and free schools refuse to expand.

It claims that councils are ‘uniquely situated’ with a knowledge of their local areas, meaning they are best placed to face the challenge of ensuring sufficient school places are provided. The LGA also believes that funding should be provided in five year blocks to allow for long term financial planning.

Roy Perry, chairman of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said: "Councils have a statutory duty to ensure every child has a school place available to them but find themselves in the difficult position of not being able to ensure schools, including academies, expand. Finding suitable sponsors with the capacity to take on the running of a successful new school is also proving a challenge.

"Creating an extra 300,000 primary places is a demonstrable record that councils will do everything they can to rise to the challenge of ensuring no child goes without a place, but all schools must play their part too. If they are not willing to expand, then powers to create new schools should be returned to local authorities themselves if they are unable to secure high quality free school sponsors in their communities."