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<div>Free Schools Policy Fails to Address School Places Crisis</div>

<div>Labour is today warning that the Government’s flagship school programme will not address the huge crisis in school places.</div> <div>
</div> <div>By the next election, the Government needs to create 240,000 new primary school places. Its free school programme will only create an extra 8,800 primary places by 2015 – and some of these may not be full by then.</div> <div>
</div> <div>In addition, over 40 per cent - more than in two in five – of the Government’s new free schools are being set up in areas which do not have a shortage of school places. Labour believes that in these tough economic times, public spending in education needs to be targeted in areas where there are shortfalls in places.</div> <div>
</div> <div>In the three areas which have the biggest increase in primary school places by 2014/15, not a single new free school is being set up.</div> <div>
</div> <div>Stephen Twigg MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:</div> <div>
</div> <div>“David Cameron and Michael Gove are failing to get a grip of the crisis in school places. Under this Government, increasing numbers of children can't get a place at their local schools and councils are warning that this problem could get worse.</div> <div>
</div> <div>“David Cameron and Michael Gove are building schools in areas of the country that already have enough places while in other parts of the country children are being squeezed into crowded classrooms. In these tough economic times funding for new schools should be prioritised for areas where there are shortages of places.</div> <div>
</div> <div>“Throwing darts at a map is not the way to build new schools.</div> <div>
</div> <div>“Labour would change the rules to allow good councils to set up new schools in areas that most need them to ease this crisis.”

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  • Manchester, Leeds and Hampshire have the biggest need for new primary school places – with over 16,000 additional places needed over the next two years. But there are no new mainstream primary free schools being created in these areas.
  • Problems are severe in many London boroughs such as Croydon, Barking & Dagenham, Ealing and Newham and the home counties such as Hertfordshire, Kent, Essex and Surrey.
  • The biggest pressure on places is in the primary sector – while the primary sector needs an additional 240,000 places by 2014/15, the secondary sector only needs an extra 16,000 places.
  • However, only one third of new free school places are in primary schools – 8,800 places of the 24,500.
  • Local authorities have the responsibility to ensure there are sufficient places, but do not have the power to set up new community schools. They also do not have the power to direct free schools or academies to expand the number of places they have.
  • Labour would allow good local authorities to be able to set up community schools in order to deal with the primary school places crisis.
  • According to the National Audit Office, 20 per cent of primary schools were full or over capacity and 29 per cent of local authorities were given less funding by the Department for Education than the Department had assessed they needed in 2012/13, using local authorities’ own forecasts for pupil numbers.
  • According to the National Audit Office, it was not until 2008 that local authorities started to predict increased pupil numbers and their projections failed to predict the longer term rise until 2010. 
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