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Region hit by Cameron’s classroom squeeze

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Almost one in five schools in region are over capacity, as parents rush to meet deadline to apply for a primary school place

As parents rush to meet the deadline for primary school applications this week, new analysis of Freedom of Information requests reveals that one in five primary schools have more pupils than they have capacity for – forcing many children into large classes or temporary, make-shift classrooms.

The Labour Party has found that in the North East and Cumbria that 22.2% of primary schools are at or over capacity whilst 14.5% of secondary schools are facing the same problem.

Schools feeling the squeeze on places include a primary school in Northumberland that has bought and converted a double decker bus into a classroom, after running out of space in the school building, with toilets and cupboards already converted into teaching spaces.

Responses to Freedom of Information requests also suggest that this problem is likely to get worse, with many local authorities still facing a desperate need for more school places – more than three quarters of councils are in need of additional primary school places over the next three years.

Pat Glass, Labour MP for North West Durham and member of the House of Commons Education Select Committee said:

“This government has put its pet project of Free Schools, many of which are half empty, ahead of sorting out the school places crisis facing our schools. Parents will rightly be demanding to know why the government has created a situation where over 20 percent of our primary schools are full or over capacity. Children across the region deserve better than being crammed into large classes or taught in temporary classrooms.”

Louise Baldock, Labour's candidate for Stockton South said

 “This is a real and vital issue in Stockton South. For instance in Ingleby Barwick our junior schools are full; I was recently contacted by a resident whose house sale fell through when the prospective buyers realised there was no school place for their 6 year old on the estate. Yet the Government is spending £11million on a new Free School for secondary school children when there is a glut of places for that age group already in the south of the borough.

"I recently visited Levendale Primary School in Yarm where children are desperate for more space, one hundredth of the sum being spent on the Free School would make all the difference in the world to them. The Conservatives are letting down our children.”

Tristram Hunt MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:

“David Cameron is irresponsibly diverting millions away from children in areas with a shortage of school places in order to fund his pet project Free Schools programme in areas where there are already enough places. This is affecting school standards and creating a classroom squeeze.”

“Unlike this Tory-led Government, Labour has the right priorities for raising school standards. We will prioritise new school places in areas where there are shortages, have rigorous local oversight of schools and ensure that all teachers have or are working towards qualified teacher status.”

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