Fears of an education ‘crisis’ as school places in North Somerset look set to run out in three years
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North Somerset could be faced with an education ‘crisis’ in the next three years, with secondary school places set to run out by 2020.
There are thousands of homes due to be built in the next few years in the district, but close to 2,000 children could be without a school by 2022, and the council may not be able to do anything about it.
There are currently no plans to build any additional schools in North Somerset to cope with the demand.
At the moment, there are 14,622 school places in North Somerset for 12,401 pupils.
But the number of children needing secondary school places is set to increase to 15,128 by 2020 and 16,602 by 2023, according to new analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA).
Recent changes into how schools are run could mean the council is unable to ensure existing schools expand to cater for more students.
Many schools now operate as academies under larger organisations called multi-academy trusts.
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This means they receive their funding from central Government and are no longer linked with a local authority.
While North Somerset Council is responsible for ensuring there are enough school places, it cannot force academies to expand.
A spokesman for the authority insisted work is being done behind the scenes to increase the amount of classroom places.
They said: “We will work with all secondary academies providing for pupils in North Somerset with the aim of commissioning sufficient places to meet demand.
“This work has already started and at the moment we are funding additional secondary-place projects in Portishead and Weston.
“From September next year there will be an additional 72 places per year group available.”
However, even with these additional school places there would still be no places for 146 pupils in 2020 based on the LGA’s projections.
Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “If we are to avoid this looming secondary school places crisis, councils need to be able to force existing academy schools to expand if voluntary agreement is impossible and must be given back powers to open new maintained schools themselves.”