The hugely stressful fight for a primary school place
Talk to the parents of any four-year-old round about this time of year and chances are all they can talk about is getting the “right” school. It becomes something of a parental obsession. But what if you can’t get any school, let alone the right one?
Today’s report from the National Audit Office is official confirmation of what many parents have known – or feared – for the last few years: the shortage of school places is reaching alarming levels. The report said one-in-five primary schools was full or near capacity with London accounting for more than a third of all extra places needed.
(Soaring birth rates since the 1950s have caused a schools places crisis in England)
The NAO says a quarter-of-a-million extra school places will be required in England by the autumn of next year.
And even Education Secretary Michael Gove, a politician renowned for his love of radical and speedy reforms, may struggle to conjure up a solution by then.
Whose fault is it?
Well, the past decade has seen the biggest 10-year increase in the birth rate since the 1950s. You can’t blame the politicians for that but both Labour and the Tories today have been trading blows on whose policies have most contributed to the problems.
Labour say the shortage of places has got worse since the coalition took power. The schools minister, David Laws, says the government is working to reverse the “idiotic policies” of the previous administration.
Back to the people who matter most in all this – the parents and the pupils.
The reality for many will be a hugely stressful fight to get something that you might hope would be a given – a place at school where your child is safe, happy and being given the best possible education.
More wealthy parents will doubtless end up exercising the power that money gives, moving house to make sure they’re in the right catchment in an increasingly competitive environment, and those without that power, will just have to lump it as usual. Teachers say the reality may be parents faced with sending siblings to two or three different schools.
For many parents it’s further confirmation that successive government’s talk of choice in education is just that – talk.
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