SOARING demand and a lack of places have turned into a national crisis for schools, councils in England and Wales declared yesterday.
The Local Government Association (LGA) called for the return of powers to open schools to deal with rising pupil numbers.
Its demands include the ability to open new secondary schools or force academies, which are not under council control, to expand.
Without these powers, local authorities will be rendered unable to meet their legal duty to ensure a school place for every child, the LGA warned.
Failure to meet the LGA’s demands would “result in yet more chaos, children being taught in portacabins, larger class sizes and many having to take places in schools away from their neighbourhood,” said National Union of Teachers general secretary Christine Blower.
“We have a school places crisis which is entirely of the government’s making.
“Lack of effective oversight has led to many academies having difficulties in areas of finance or management.
“It is also obvious that the Department for Education is facing massive difficulties in recruiting sufficient numbers of academy sponsors or chains to open new schools.
“It is only government that appears to be oblivious to the dreadful situation that is emerging as a consequence of their education policies. The effects are now being felt across England.”
Ms Blower said it was “quite clear” that local authorities needed to be given the ability and adequate funding to open new schools.
But a Department for Education spokeswoman accused the LGA of “scaremongering” and urged councils to ensure they used funding provided by government to secure enough places.
The looming crisis comes as a separate Labour Party study revealed that almost one in six secondary schools in England was over capacity.
An additional 300,000 young people set to enter schools by 2020 could result in a rise of “titan” secondary schools, which have up to 2,000 pupils.
“The Tories’ free-market approach to providing new school places just isn’t working and is creating a crisis in school places,” said shadow education secretary Lucy Powell.
She said the government’s “fixation with free schools,” which can be opened in areas with no shortage of school places, was fuelling the crisis.