Hundreds of extra school places to be created to meet population boom

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Elsie Bushnell won a competition to give her Year 1 class from Ark Dickens Primary Academy a session at the Guildhall Ice Rink

Pupil’s drawing wins class session on Guildhall ice rink

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EVERY child in Portsmouth who wants a secondary school place in the city should get one.

That was the message today from education leader Councillor Neill Young.

It comes at the Local Government Association has issued a warning that the legal duty of councils in England to ensure that every child has a school place could soon become undeliverable.

The association warns that a population bulge is about to hit secondary schools and councils will struggle to meet the demand.

But Cllr Young said the council had been planning for a rise in demand for some time.

The authority has set up a £12.9m pot to spend on a range of improvements, including creating 400 extra school places by refurbishing or extending existing buildings.

Cllr Young told The News: ‘In Portsmouth we are doing a lot of work to ensure that we have sufficient school places.

‘In the capital budget we are investing a considerable amount of money to create school places.

‘Like all councils we will face pressure, but we are working hard with all secondary schools to look at what we can expand to ensure we have sufficient secondary places for every child.’

He said the council had been planning for the boom in secondary place demand for some time.

‘It’s not something that comes as a surprise,’ he said.

He added: ‘For every child that wants to have a place in the city, we will endeavour to have a school place for them.

‘We managed it with our primary school sector and we will endeavour to do that in the secondary phase.’

Nationally, figures show councils had to provide 2,740,000 secondary school places last year, but this will rise to 3,287,000 by 2024.

Thousands of children are due to hear tomorrow which secondary school they will attend from September.

The LGA wants councils to be able to open schools themselves and to require academies, which make up almost two thirds of secondary schools and decide their own admissions policies, to expand as required.