Kerry calls for urgent action on primary school funding

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13 October 2011

Kerry McCarthy MP warns the government is failing to adopt a "common sense approach" on primary school education that considers what a local authority actually needs.

Kerry said "There is a looming crisis in Bristol's primary schools and an urgent need for the Department for Education to step in and provide the necessary capital funding.

Over the past four years, there has been a 20 per cent increase in the pupil population, with a thousand more children starting school this September. For the past few years, parents across the city have faced the stress of not knowing whether their child can start school, often because even if they are offered a place, they cannot physically get to that school each morning either due to lack of transport, because they have a child at another school or pre-school or they have to travel in the other direction for work.

Parents in my constituency have been forced to leave their jobs because there is no place for their child at their local school. This is a serious problem that both local and central government must resolve.

Bristol City Council has had to spend £5.3m this year alone on temporary solutions, such as modular classrooms, to guarantee enough places this September. Some schools have increased from two form entry to four forms in just a few years but this growth is not sustainable. The Council has used all the quick fixes it can and our schools have run out of space for yet more Portakabins next year.

With the infant population set to rise steeply over the next couple of years, there is projected to be a minimum shortfall of 3000 places by 2015. The city needs at least 14 extra reception classes by next September alone so the Council needs permanent solutions and significant re-builds but does not have the necessary capital funding.

The coalition has failed to provide 3 year budgets, preventing any medium term planning. They have readily spent money on Bristol Free School, a secondary school we do not need, but the education secretary has not acknowledged the primary school shortage. His department will support a new school for ideological reasons but not for real need.

In July, Michael Gove proudly announced an additional £500m to meet Basic Need in Local Authorities under pressure due to rising numbers. This money is desperately needed in places like Bristol, where re-builds must start in the next few months if they are to be ready by September, but the money has not been allocated. When it finally is apportioned, it is unlikely that Bristol will receive the share it needs, because the Department of Education is calculating need using this summer's total surplus places return. Bristol currently has a surplus in Years 5 and 6, but these are of no use whatsoever to four year olds excited about starting school next September. The government is failing to adopt a common sense approach that considers what a local authority actually needs."



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