London needs 15,000 more school places than expected, says report

Students taking an exam
Image caption London has the highest predicted growth in pupils which puts pressure on the number of available places

London will need to create 15,000 more school places than expected by 2017 to meet demand.

The capital has the highest predicted rate of pupil growth in the country, according to a report by London Councils.

A new 'baby boom' in 2001 has put greater pressure on school places in the capital.

The Department for Education said it was spending £2.5bn on creating new school places in London until 2017.

London will need to create a total of 133,000 new school places over the next three years to satisfy growing demand, according to the report by London Councils, which represents all the capital's councils.

This is 15,000 more than estimated last year, when London Councils anticipated that a total of 118,000 more school places would be needed from 2012 to 2016.

The increasing demand for places means councils have spent more on building schools and extending existing buildings, but this level of spending is becoming unsustainable, says the report.

'Digging deep'

London councils created 46,000 places between 2012 and 2013 but the capital is due to have a shortage of secondary school places.

Councillor Peter John, executive member for children and young people at London Councils, says the pressure is increasing "as the baby boomers move from primary to secondary school".

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Image caption London needs to create more school places to cope with a new 'baby boom' from 2001

"Councils have been digging deep into their own pockets to fund a place for every child," he said.

"But rising land and building costs, limited council budgets, and the sheer rise in numbers, frankly make this option unsustainable in the long-term."

Free schools do not always open in areas of greatest need, the report adds.

Councils are duty-bound to provide places for all pupils but have little control over the free schools and academies established by the national government.

London Councils has called for better planning in the opening of free schools, so that they serve areas where demand is greatest, and better funding for local government education.

The cost of a new school place in inner London is estimated at £15,000, compared to £9,000 in outer London.

In response to the report, the Department for Education said it was spending £2.5bn on creating new school places in London until 2017, including £1.9bn in this Parliament.

"That means 67,000 extra primary school places were created in London between 2010 and 2013, and there are firm plans to create an additional 90,000 primary places by September next year," it said.

The government has already opened 58 free schools in the capital and is planning to open a further 70, which would provide 70,000 additional school places, the department said.

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