We Need More School Places

EveStandardLetters: Evening Standard

24th April 2013


The school places shortage raises two different issues: the challenge of providing more school buildings, and of recruiting enough teachers.

In terms of capital spending, my understanding is that the free school budget is already committed.  In its entirety it would pay for 200 new schools.  To meet the scale of the problem we need to extend existing schools and develop new ones.  As yet, we have no pupil performance data or Ofsted inspection reports to show whether free schools will succeed or not.

Local authorities have a statutory responsibility to ensure there are sufficient school places yet, as your report points out, they cannot insist that academies take additional pupils.  Some legislative tidying up is required.

As for additional teachers needed to meet demand, Michael Gove has withdrawn the requirement that free schools must employed teachers.  Thus we could be in a situation where all new schools could technically employ anybody.

Policymakers should be measured and sensible about ways to boost the number of teachers, bringing back experienced former teachers who have left the profession through a targeted retraining programme.

Around the world it is recognised that the biggest factor in educational outcomes is quality of teaching.  Great strides have been made in the teaching of early maths and literacy in the past 15 years; it is important that we continue this trend.

Chris Husbands, Institute of Education

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