Southampton Itchen Labour MP John Denham has criticised the Tory-led Government as 70 primary school children in Southampton have been left with no school place for the new term. He said, “The Government is putting political dogma ahead of the needs of our children.”
Mr Denham said today that Education Secretary Michael Gove is wasting money on free schools in areas that have surplus places at the cost of additional places in local schools that Southampton parents need: “A small part of the £900 million free school programme could have guaranteed every Southampton child a primary school place”.
The shocking scale of the lack of provision in Southampton has been revealed, and comes at a time that the Tory-led government has diverted significant funds from existing schools to “Free Schools” which are publicly funded but not under local authority control.
- 68 children in Southampton are starting the term without a place at primary school, including 42 children due to be starting in reception year;
- 200 children will be starting in a school that was not one of their parents’ choice;
- Overcrowding in schools has meant that only 82.1 per cent of applications in Southampton saw parents given their first choice primary school;
- This shortage in Southampton schools comes at a time that the Government is spending £900m on a Free Schools programme, many of which will not be primary schools, or do not have support from local parents, and
- One of the first acts of the Tory-led Government was to abolish Labour’s national £7billion programme to expand, rebuild or refurbish half of all primary schools over the next decade, which would have helped to address this issue.
“There is something that feels terribly cruel about not having places for these reception class children in particular, who will not only be left out as they see their friends going to school, but will have to settle in when they do get a place when all their classmates will already have done so.”