As never before, education policy is being driven by ideology not evidence. Every Government announcement is laden with myths about schools, teachers and our education system.

It’s time to get the facts.

EduFacts aims to challenge Government and media rhetoric by presenting the facts about what’s going on in our schools, our education system and in the teaching profession.

Each EduFacts factsheet presents a series of short factual statements about a topical education issue with the supporting evidence to back them up.

From teachers’ pay to school holidays, from academies to school funding, EduFacts will bring you the facts, not the myths about what’s going on in education.

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  • The NUT believes that all children have the right to a place in a good local school; to be taught by a qualified teacher; in classes that are not overcrowded; and in buildings that are fit for purpose and that provide all the facilities necessary to ensure a good quality education.
  • Yet Britain is facing the worst shortage of school places, particularly primary places, for decades. This is resulting in overcrowded classrooms, primary schools expanding beyond an optimum size and children travelling further to school.
  • In March 2013, the National Audit Office (NAO) published a report which showed that more than a quarter of a million new school places are needed by 2014, with demand expected to rise further beyond 2014-15. 1
  • London is particularly badly hit – with 42 per cent of the projected national place shortage by 2016/17 identified to be in the capital.2 Central Bedfordshire, Bedford, Peterborough, Bristol, Slough and Manchester face the biggest demand for primary places outside the capital and all need to increase school capacity by over 20 per cent by the start of the 2016 school term.3
  • Between 2001 and 2011, England experienced the largest ten-year increase in the birth rate since the 1950s and this has fuelled increased demand for primary school places.4 Some groups have claimed that the baby boom has been caused by immigration but in fact the birth rate for women born outside the UK fell between 2009/10 while it increased among UK-born women, European Union statistics show.5
  • In London, specific factors have, in addition, fuelled the school population rise. The recession has both drawn people into the capital for work and resulted in fewer families leaving. London schools are also now regarded as performing extremely well so families are choosing to educate their children in the capital.
  • UK Government statistics show that overall pupil numbers in state-funded schools began to increase in 2011 and are projected to continue rising. In nursery and primary schools pupils numbers are projected to be 18 per cent higher by 2021 compared with 2010, reaching levels last seen in the 1970s.6
  • In contrast, the number of state funded secondary pupils aged up to 15 has been falling since 2005 and is expected to continue to do so until 2015 when the rise in primary pupil numbers will start to flow through.7
  • Population changes are not a new phenomenon and local authorities, who are responsible for providing sufficient school places, have traditionally been able to plan to meet rising and falling demand. The significant factor in the current situation is that, since 2010, the Government has removed and undermined local authorities’ legal powers to deliver new school places.
  • Local authorities have lost the power to plan and build new maintained schools, because the Government says that any new school must now be an academy or free school8. Yet free schools depend upon a provider coming forward to propose a new school in a location of their choice, which may be in an area with surplus places rather than one where there is additional need. Furthermore, local authorities cannot direct an academy or free school to expand as they can in the case of maintained schools. Academies and free schools have brought in an irrational competitive marketplace for school places rather than the rational planned provision that local authorities were able to guarantee in the past.
  • Furthermore, local authorities report that they have less funding than they need to provide more places.9 The NAO report noted that the DfE has under-estimated the cost of delivering new places. This underfunding comes on top of the 60 per cent real terms cut to capital funding, announced by the Government in 2010, when it scrapped the BSF school building programme.
  • The NUT believes that the solution to the school place crisis is to give local authorities back the legal powers they need to plan and provide enough school places in their local areas and for the Government to provide sufficient funding to enable them to do so.

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