This planning used to be done by local authorities but, in the name of giving free choice to parents with its free schools programme, the Government has actually limited the options for parents that want to send their children to a local authority state maintained school. So nowadays all new schools have to be academies or free schools, and councils cannot even force existing academies to assist with providing places. To put that another way - local authorities can no longer build or commission schools, even if local people want a community school and even though councils are still responsible for providing a good education for all children.
Last month the Local Government Association reported that schools nationally are facing a potential shortfall of 80,000 new places by 2020. This is partly due to the rising population. However, local authorities have faced this challenge in the past and have dealt with it through forward-planning. What is different now is that their legal powers to deliver new school places have been undermined. The problem is being highlighted by a new campaign called the School Places Crisis, which wants to restore local authorities’ power to build new schools. I am actively backing it and you can too.
Here in Brighton and Hove we have so far avoided the crisis that’s affecting so many other areas, and the vast majority of children get a place in the school they want to attend. But that’s of little comfort to the small number who don’t. We also have schools that desperately need to expand to allow for growing numbers of pupils but can’t because of the Government’s fixation with taking our schools out of the hands of the experts and handing them over to private companies instead. I don’t think that right or fair. I think that every child in the city has the right to attend a community school and that’s what I will continue to stand up for as an MP.