Wakefield will need hundreds of new secondary school places to meet demand of students in five years

Local government chiefs have called on the Government to allow councils like Wakefield to build new schools or expand academies in order to avoid a secondary school 'emergency'.

Wakefield will need to create hundreds of new secondary school places over the next five years to meet the rising number of students, according to Department for Education (DfE) figures.

Local government chiefs have called on the Government to allow councils like Wakefield to build new schools or expand academies in order to avoid a secondary school “emergency”.

The latest forecast from the DfE reveals that in five years Wakefield will need to increase its secondary school capacity by one per cent.

While in 2016-17 there were 18 state-funded schools with 23,032 available places for children between 11 and 16 years old, the department estimates that 23,278 students will be in secondary school in 2023-24.

The council will need to open zero more schools to accommodate 246 new children at that time.

England’s birth rate went up steeply in the early 2000s, leading councils to add about 600,000 extra places in primary schools since 2010. That birth bulge is now feeding through secondary school.

The Local Government Association said that limitations imposed by the Government will not allow local authorities to do the same in secondary schools, making the shortage worse in many areas.

Coun Anntoinette Bramble, chair of its Children and Young People Board, said: “Councils need to be given the powers to help solve this crisis. As a starting point, they should be allowed to open new maintained schools and direct academies to expand.

“It makes no sense for councils to be given the responsibility to plan for school places but then not allowed to open schools themselves. It is only by working with councils, rather than shutting them out, that we can meet the challenges.”

Nansi Ellis, assistant general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “The Government’s determination to create a market for education through the introduction of free schools and the expansion of the academy programme and grammar schools has undermined the ability of local authorities to plan and provision of school places.

“We face a secondary school places emergency unless the Government sees sense and gives councils the powers to open schools or direct academies and free schools to expand.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “This Government has driven the largest creation in school places in two generations and by 2020, there will be one million more new places across the school system than there were in 2010.

“We are spending £23 billion by 2021 to ensure every child has access to a good school place and since 2010, 43,000 fewer pupils are being taught in overcrowded schools. Our latest admissions data shows that 93.8 per cent of children received offers from one of their top three choice of secondary school last year.”

Nationally, 71 councils in England will need to increase places to meet secondary students demand in five years, according to the Department’s forecast.

There are more places than students in 66 local authorities. The department’s data measures total school capacity. It is not broken into age ranges so, according to teachers unions, there may be under-capacity in specific student years groups which is not revealed by the total number of places.

Manchester will need to expand its secondary schools the most in England. According to DfE data, it will need 12,797 new places in five years - about 11 new schools.

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