U.K. Lacks 240,000 Primary-School Places for 2014

The U.K. needs to provide an extra 256,000 school places, including 240,000 at primary schools, for the 2014-15 academic year, the National Audit Office said.

A rise in the number of babies born between 2001 and 2011 has led to increased demand, outstripping the 81,500 extra places provided in the past two years, the spending watchdog said in a report published in London today. Primaries are the British equivalent of elementary schools. The Department for Education used incomplete information to assess requirements, the NAO said.

“The department needs a better understanding of costs to improve value for money, as well as a better understanding of the impact its funding contribution is having on the ground,” Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, said in an e-mailed statement.

More than 20 percent of schools were full or had more children than intended in May last year, and the number of infant classes with more than 31 children has doubled since 2007, the NAO said. About 37 percent of the primary places needed are in London.

The Department for Education assessed the cost in 2010 of providing 324,000 school places at 5 billion pounds ($7.5 billion), including contributions from local governments. That estimate failed to account for the cost of land acquisition and assumed that most places would be provided by extending existing schools, the NAO said.

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