Kent needs 10,000 primary school places

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More than 10,000 primary school places need to be created in Kent in four years, the county council has revealed.

Conservative-run Kent County Council (KCC) said the demand was due to rising birth rates and migration.

The places needed are equal to 25 new primary schools and two new secondary schools. KCC is planning to find most places by expanding existing schools.

Opposing Labour members said KCC was rushing around to solve a problem that should have been foreseen years ago.

Schools expert Peter Read also passed a confidential, internal KCC report to the BBC which revealed concerns about admissions pressure in 2009.

Mr Read said the county had seen "nearly three wasted years" and had made ad hoc developments with a large number of temporary school expansions that had not always been in the right places and had led to increased problems.

'Surprise' population growth

The council's cabinet member for education Mike Whiting said 44 schools would be enlarged over the next three years and up to four primary schools would be built as well.

He said the authority had been taken by surprise by the results of the 2011 census, which showed the extent of population growth across the region, but the education authority was planning for this now.

Mr Whiting said the council had produced a detailed document about where spare places would be needed and would review it annually to address emerging issues such as new housing developments and rises in inward migration from Europe and across the UK.

He denied claims the council had been "rushing around" to solve a problem and said the school places review had taken a full year to pull together.

Mr Whiting said two new schools would open in Kent over the next year.

He said the council could identify places where free schools or academies could be opened, and he said KCC could also work with churches to open voluntary-aided schools, under existing law.

'Far from reassured'

But Councillor Leslie Christie, Labour's education spokesman, said: "It's too much too late. Where are they going to get the finances? We've been warning the Conservative administration for years.

"It's only now when they need 10,000 places that they have come forward."

And he added: "I'm far from reassured. I'm more frightened than ever if he's talking about expansions of free schools and academies which KCC can't control [in terms of] either the location or the admission policies.

"He's relying on church schools where where church schools restrict those who can get admitted because of their faith."

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