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NAO report highlights progress on delivering new school places

23/02/2017 Joanna

The government is making progress on its efforts to create new school places where they are needed across the country, according to a new report from the National Audit Office.

Analysis of the capital funding system for UK schools carried out by the auditing body has indicated that a large number of new school places have been created by the Department for Education in partnership with local authorities and schools, while much-needed improvements have been made to schools in the worst condition - though significant challenges still remain.

It was shown that between 2010 and 2015, 599,000 new school places were created at a cost of £7.5 billion, mostly in good or outstanding schools, helping them to meet rising demand for places. Key improvements have also been made to how the department estimates the need for school places, collecting more localised forecasts of pupil numbers and allocating money more closely according to need.

In 2016, ten per cent of primary places and 16 per cent of secondary places were unfilled, showing that some areas have an excess and that parents have a certain amount of choice as to where to send their children. However, it was also noted that these vacant places are not spread equally across the country, with London and the south-east experiencing particular pressure.

The report also highlighted the fact that many school buildings are deteriorating, with the most common problems being with electrics and external walls. It would cost £6.7 billion to return all school buildings to satisfactory or better condition, and a further £7.1 billion to bring parts of school buildings from satisfactory to good condition - figures that are expected to rise over time.

Sir Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: "Having enough school places in safe, high-quality buildings in the right areas is a crucial part of the education system.

"The department has responded positively to start to meet the challenges it faces in relation to the quality and capacity of the school estate; significant challenges remain, however, as the population continues to grow and the condition of the ageing estate deteriorates."

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