LGA calls for powers to provide more school places

The Local Government Association (LGA) has once again called for greater powers for local councils to ensure that every child has a secondary school place.

The LGA want local councils to have the powers to open new maintained schools or compel academies to expand, warning that without these powers the legal duty of councils to ensure every child has access to a school place may be undeliverable.

Forecasts indicate that councils will have a duty to plan for a 20 per cent increase in secondary school places by 2024, and the LGA is concerned that with limited powers over academies, which now make up over 60 per cent of secondary schools, and without the ability to open more maintained schools, they may not be able to meet this target.

Further exacerbating the problem, the LGA has said it is also concerned that councils will struggle to find new sponsors for free schools in time to create the places required.

Roy Perry, Chairman of the Local Government Association'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.

"Councils have already created an extra 300,000 primary places, but those children will soon need to move up to secondary schools. 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 academies 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."