Group warns of shortage in primary school places

Shefford Lower School

Shefford Lower School - Credit: Archant

A GROUP has warned that the rising demand for primary schools could lead to a shortage of places.

Analysis by the Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales names Central Bedfordshire as set to have one of the biggest demands for primary school places in 2016.

Cllr David Simmonds, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “Mums and dads quite rightly expect their child to have access to a place in a good school that is nearby. But councils are facing unprecedented pressures in tackling the desperate shortage of new school places.

“Councils across the country have been increasing places by expanding schools where possible through additional classes or new buildings. However, without enough resource to provide places we are seeing some schools having to take extreme measures including converting non-classroom space and reducing playground space.”

But Central Bedfordshire Council has denied the claims saying that the figures are misleading.

In a statement the council said: “Their figure for the current capacity of our lower/primary schools (years 1-6) is 17,908, when the actual number is 22,364. The LGA data did not include year 5 and 6 places at our middle schools.

The council has already announced projects to provide additional places, including expansions to Fairfield Park and Shefford Lower Schools and St Mary’s Lower School in Stotfold.

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Cllr Mark Versallion, executive member for children’s services said: “A key role for us as a council is to ensure that all our children have a place at a local school. Over 3200 Central Bedfordshire children are starting school this term and 96% who applied by the closing date were allocated their first preference.”

The shortage has been driven by the birth rate rising more quickly than at any time since the 1950s.

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