Primary school offer day sparks pupil-place questions

Town hall leaders have called for government clarification on pupil place expectations on the day that pupils await primary schools offers (18 April).

Under proposals in the Department for Education’s Educational Excellence Everywhere white paper, councils will retain responsibility for ensuring all children get a school place despite the academy changes set to change the education landscape over the next few years.

Academies, separate from local authority control, are able to set their own pupil intake numbers, with no requirement to consider local need.

The Local Government Association (LGA) predicts that an additional 336,000 primary school places will be needed by 2024, on top of the 300,000 primary places created since 2010.

The LGA has urged the government to clarify how vulnerable children will be accommodated within the new system, as a council cannot make a school accept a child unless they have a formal statement of special needs, even where it can offer them the best support.

Cllr Roy Perry, chairman of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said: “Local councils have been working hard to not only fulfil their duty to ensure every child has a school place, but to make sure as many as possible get their first choice – it isn't just about a place for a child, but the right place.

"If proposals within the Education White Paper go forward and all schools convert to academies, councils must be given powers to force schools to expand where this is in the best interests of new and existing pupils. Most academies will be keen to work with their local authorities, but in the minority of situations where this isn't the case, appropriate powers are vital to ensure all children get a suitable place.

"Councils will also need a greater role in judging and approving applications for new schools to make sure they're appropriate for communities, and will need to be able to place vulnerable children in the schools that can offer them the best support."