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Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan

Nicky Morgan puts spotlight on school places

DfE whitepaper promises funding for extra school places and encourages free school applications

Posted by Stephanie Broad | March 22, 2016 | People, policy, politics, money

George Osborne’s Budget and the DfE’s whitepaper have put school capacity back on the agenda, as state schools move towards a ‘school-led’ academy system.

In the whitepaper, Nicky Morgan pledges to complete the Priority School Building programme by 2021. As schools become academies, she says: “responsibility for managing condition budgets will move from local authorities to academies. In the interim, local authorities will continue to manage capital allocations for maintained schools.”

On the topic of school places, the whitepaper states: “Given the scarcity of specialist provision in some areas and the importance of parental choice, we will ensure that there are sufficient special school places available to match local need. We are encouraging applications for special free schools, and have already seen positive results, with 19 special free schools now open across the country and over ten approved to open in 2016 and beyond...But we want to go further. So we will also make available capital funding to support the expansion of existing provision, as well as the development of new schools to create new specialist places. At least £200 million will be available, and we will say more about how this will be distributed later in 2016.

Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) said that while there is “a greater focus on capacity building than in previous years”, more focus is needed on recruitment and funding.

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the National Federation of Builders (NFB), said: 'Converting schools to academies will put control where there is more awareness of local need, including around school building and maintenance.

“The NFB has produced research that shows how a lack of SME involvement in school building programmes means that taxpayers are denied value for money. The benefits of using local labour, developing local skills and developing regional economies are lost as the largest contractors take their profits out of the region and, in some cases, abroad.”

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