Union says education minister has to concede his policies cannot provide sufficient school places for children

Tim Lezard

GoveTeaching unions have welcomed proposals to give local authorities greater powers over deciding where new free schools and academies should open.

The plans represent a major change from the government’s original policy of allowing schools to be established in direct negotiation with the Department of Education.

ATL general secretary Mary Bousted said: “Michael Gove has been forced into making another U-turn by the looming crisis in primary school places, and into accepting that local authorities have a vital role to play.

“You know the situation must be serious when even the ideologically driven Michael Gove has to back down and reverse one of his policies.  The crisis in school places is so severe that he is being forced to bring local authorities back into their former role of planning new schools and deciding who should run them.

“We have always said that democratically elected local authorities are best placed to know where there are the greatest shortage of school places and which local areas most need more schools.  It is hugely significant that Michael Gove is having to concede his free schools and academies policy cannot provide enough school places for our children.

“There was never any way that the Department for Education could have the local knowledge or resources to take over this vital role played by local authorities.”

NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “This is a clear admission that the free school policy has not effectively addressed local need for new places and concedes the vital role of the local authority in funding for new school places and the right of the local authority to select the provider.

“It clearly exposes the inconsistencies of the current situation where central government has the power to decide where a school should open without proper consultation or consideration of local need.

“The NUT has long said that free schools are being opened in places where there is no need for extra provision and in some cases where there are surplus places. In particular, the programme has seen a disproportionate number of secondary schools approved when the real need nationwide is in the primary phase.

“Previously announced cuts to school capital funding including the cancellation of the Building Schools for the Future project have made it much more difficult to repair our dilapidated school buildings and to reduce class sizes, as well as to ensure appropriate funding for new places.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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