The shortage of places for pupils in certain primary schools has been a big item in the news for the past few weeks and it has been generating a heated debate since. A lack of places in English primary schools means that a significant amount of pupils will not get a place in the school their parents intended for them. This year was the first year where a co-ordinated allocation of places happened following an ‘application process’ in which parents specified a top three (or top six in London) of their preferred schools. On the 16th of April, parents were notified of the school their child was allocated to by email and letter.
The squeeze for places was especially noticeable in certain London boroughs such as Kensington and Chelsea where just 61.6% of pupils got their number one choice. Birmingham fared much better, being able to offer 87,5% their top choice, according to this BBC article.
What exactly causes this shortage in spaces? A ‘baby boom’ in some areas has schools struggling to keep class sizes to the legal maximum of 30 pupils per class. Land and property prices are also a contributing factor: school looking to expand and create more room for their classes are usually struggling to buy the new property required to do so. People commenting on the BBC article stated that the BBC was avoiding the elephant in the room: an influx of immigrants means there are a lot more children to find places for.
It is, and will stay, a complicated and controversial topic. I feel sorry for people who didn’t get their preferred school: after all it is such an important thing that both child and parent feel good about their school. A quick search on the internet reveals tons of comments from so many people who didn’t get their preferred place. More often than not this means they have to drive a couple of extra miles to bring their child to their allocated school even though there is a school right around the corner of their home.
Parents can appeal of course, but this again is a long and potentially stressful procedure and can still end in the child being turned down for their preferred school if the final judgement is there are not sufficient reasons to appeal.
I personally think it is up to the government: less talk and more action. You hear nothing but that they are ‘intending’ to create new spaces. If so, where are they? If schools don’t have sufficient means to buy new property to expand, increase their funding. Boost new schools that are starting. Increase the amount of schools in areas where it really counts, because this problem is not as urgent in areas with smaller population (such as Scotland!).
The problem does not stop there. We are heading towards a shortage of places in secondary schools in these densely populated areas as well. It is estimated that this shortage of places in secondary schools will begin to show by 2019-2020.
The problem will have to be resolved shortly and not only that, but a solution for an increasing population will be have to calculated into that solution. We can reasonably expect the population to keep growing year on year. It is just a fact. Barely having enough spaces for your pupils as it is, is highly problematic if we stop to think that next year, there will most likely be even more pupils to find a place for!
In closing, not getting your child into your preferred school is incredibly frustrating, but not the end of the world. I read many comments of parents saying they would have to take their child away from their existing friends to move them to a new school where they wouldn’t know anyone and had to start over in making friends. Yes, this can be daunting for children, but it’s also our adult perspective on things. Children tend to make contact easily and will have new friends before you know it, especially with your support and help!