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MP left red-faced after getting his sums wrong over school places


CROYDON North MP Steve Reed has been told to do his homework after getting his sums wrong during an attack over school places.

Criticising the government in the House of Commons, Mr Reed said there would be "a shortfall of nearly 2,500 permanent places in Croydon by 2016".

He accused ministers of failing to act, despite the Department for Education (DfE) allocating the borough £110 million to meet unprecedented levels of demand over the next two years.

That money has already been allocated to plans which include opening eight new schools, with the first to take pupils next September.

Asked by the Advertiser to explain his attack in light of the investment, Mr Reed said: "[The £110 million] is no good if we need far more than that; by the council's own figures we're looking at a shortfall of nearly 2,500 places even after all that additional money has been spent."

However, this is not correct.

The council is in the middle of a £167 million programme, to create extra schools places, with £110 million of the funding provided by the Government, and the rest met by the council through borrowing from the Public Works Loans Board (PWLB).

Current plans for new schools, permanent expansions and bulge classes, will create 65 forms of entry by 2016/17.

This would be short of the 82.5 which could be required if demand meets higher predictions adopted by the council last month – and referred to by Mr Reed.

But it does not include further bulge classes, or new schools in years beyond 2014/15.

Spaces for these potential 525 primary and secondary pupils are not covered in the £167 million programme, so would require additional money from the Government or borrowing from the PWLB.

Croydon received a two-year settlement of £63.2 million from the DfE in March, more than any other local authority, and a further £47 million for its schools estates programme earlier this year.

It published an update in November, which revised predictions of how many places will be required due to increased demand.

The worst case scenario is now 82.5 forms of entry (2,475 pupils) across secondary and primary by 2016/17, with a conservative estimate of 38.

The figure prompted Mr Reed to raise the issue with Chancellor George Osborne following last week's Autumn Statement.

He attacked the Government for cancelling Labour's Building Schools for the Future programme shortly after coming to power in 2010.

Mr Reed called on them to "put dogma aside and provide places that children and parents need right here in Croydon".

He claims the council confirmed to him that the DfE funding had not gone towards creating the 82.5 classes.

Tim Pollard, cabinet member for children, families and learners, called Mr Reed's attack "fairly astounding".

He said: "Could thousands of children be left without a school place? Yes, if we didn't do anything. But we are doing a lot things.

"It's just alarmist and silly."

MP left red-faced after getting his sums wrong over school places

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