URGENT ACTION NEEDED TO DEAL WITH SCHOOL PLACES TIMEBOMB

Southwark must take urgent action to deal with its school places ‘timebomb’ after remaining one of the worst performing boroughs in the country for new admissions to secondary schools, local Liberal Democrats councillors have said.

Official figures released this week show that over 1,000 pupils were rejected from their first choice of secondary school this year, out of a total of 2,592 applications. Whilst this is a slight improvement from last year, it means more than one in three (38.6%) still lost out on a place in their preferred school – well below the national average.

Last year Southwark was named as the fifth worst area in the UK for the number of pupils getting into their first choice secondary school, falling well below last year's London (78%) and England (86.7%) averages.

The number of pupils being rejected from all of their six choices (5.6%, or 147 pupils) is also likely to remain one of the worst in the country when the full national statistics are revealed in coming weeks.

Southwark Liberal Democrats have said the new figures highlight the urgent need for more permanent school places in the borough, and have pledged to build new schools if they win control of the council in May’s local elections. Liberal Democrat councillors have already been at the forefront of local campaigns for new schools, including helping to secure funding and land for new academies in Dulwich.

In contrast, Labour councillors have failed to make any real progress on new schools in the past year.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Children and Young People, Cllr Rosie Shimell, said:

“It is a real cause for concern that over a third of pupils are missing out on their first choice of school. There is a slight improvement from last year, but sadly Southwark is still one of the worst performing boroughs in the whole country for school admissions.”

“There has been a worrying ‘head in the sand’ approach to school places by the council’s Labour Cabinet, who have preferred to put politics ahead of supporting new schools.”

“A Liberal Democrat council has already committed to building new schools where they are needed to bring an end to Labour’s school places timebomb.”