Action needed over looming shortage in Redbridge secondary school places, says Local Government Association

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Picture PA. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Redbridge is at risk of not having enough secondary school places for pupils, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned.

Analysis of Department for Education (DfE) figures and local pupil forecasts show that the borough could face a deficit by the academic year 2021/2022.

Cllr Richard Watts, chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said more families will face growing uncertainty when trying to secure a place for their child.

“Councils have worked hard to help create almost 600,000 additional primary places since 2010 and this is no small feat.

“However, as those children move on to secondary schools, the majority of which are now academies, securing new secondary places in the areas where they are needed is becoming increasingly difficult,” he said.

“Councils are working with one hand behind their backs to help as many pupils as possible receive a place at their first choice school.”

The LGA said councils urgently need to be given powers to force academies and free schools to expand if additional places are needed and voluntary agreement cannot be reached.

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With nearly two thirds of secondary schools in London now academies, the LGA insists that this is the only way to make sure councils can fulfil their statutory duty to ensure every child has a place.

The association also believes Redbridge and other councils across London need to be given back powers to build new schools in areas where they are needed, if it is logistically impossible for local academies or free schools to provide the places needed.

Currently, although councils have a duty to make sure there are enough places in an area, all final decisions about new schools have to be made in Whitehall.

“If we are to avoid this looming secondary school places crisis, councils must be given back powers to open new maintained schools themselves,” Mr Watts added.

Across the capital, the LGA predicts that as things stand 125,000 children face missing out on a secondary school place by 2023.

A Redbridge Council spokesman said: “We currently have sufficient school places to meet demand and are planning to address the projected shortfall in places in the future.”