Posted on September 5, 2013

Pupils Packed in like Sardines: Baby Boom and Migrant Influx Fuel School Places Crisis

Andrew Levy and Sarah Harris, Daily Mail (London), September 2, 2013

Thousands of pupils are being squeezed into extra classes at primary schools struggling under a huge influx of children.

Amid a raft of emergency measures, a third of councils are being forced to lay on the ‘bulge’ reception classes for the term starting this week. The crisis has been caused by a baby boom, rising immigration and families being priced out of the private sector.

Many pupils will now be taught in temporary classrooms, with some schools renting extra space in empty offices and children’s centres.

Margaret Morrissey, of pressure group Parents Outloud, said the situation was a scandal because officials knew of the population bulge and of higher numbers of child migrants.

‘Children who need individual support and help the most are being pushed into classes where they can hardly move around the room,’ she added.

‘Pupils’ education is being damaged as a result of them being packed into schools like sardines.’

Some schools spent the summer as building sites while construction workers desperately tried to finish  additional classrooms in time.

Further efforts to meet soaring demand for places include:

  •  Classes of more than 30 pupils – despite previous attempts to ban the practice;
  •  ‘Titan’ schools with 1,000-plus children;
  •  Sacrificing playgrounds and green areas for either temporary or permanent classrooms;
  •  ‘Split-shift’ schools with double intakes studying at different times during an extended school day and week.

The drastic steps emerged as local authorities admitted hundreds of children due to be starting school for the first time are still without places.

Almost one in ten children–more than 50,000–are going to a primary that was not their family’s first choice. About 20,000 have to go to a school their parents did not want them to attend, because all their chosen primaries were full.

Just over a third of the 152 local education authorities in England were contacted by the Daily Mail about their plans for the new term at their primary schools and 26 responded.

Nine said they were using bulge classes–a one-off reception class that continues through the school until more space is found or the children join a secondary.

Extrapolated across the country, this suggests around 50 councils or one in three are relying on them as an emergency solution. Most indicated there would be more than one bulge class in their area, meaning thousands of children are affected.

The local authorities included Hertfordshire, Nottingham, Barking and Dagenham, Richmond, Rotherham and Wakefield.Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire, Medway, Rotherham, Sunderland, Wakefield, Portsmouth admitted they are using temporary classrooms.

In Barking and Dagenham, 70 per cent of its 47 infant, junior and primary schools have already been expanded or are in the process of being made bigger.

The National Audit Office warned in April that 240,000 extra primary places would be needed by September 2014.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the MigrationWatch think tank, said: ‘This is one of the major consequences of the mass immigration that was allowed to occur under the previous government.

‘Parents of young children are now bearing the cost.’

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘We are spending £5billion by 2015 on creating new school places–more than double the amount spent by the previous government in the same time frame.’

London Councils, which represents the capital’s 33 local authorities, yesterday estimated a funding shortfall of £1.04billion to create sufficient school places by 2016/17.

It estimates that London boroughs will have to contribute around £9,000 a pupil towards the costs of building places locally.