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  1. National

NAO head: 'Real challenge' for school places

National Audit Office head Amyas Morse said:

The Department has ambitious objectives to provide school places, and to enable parents to have some choice of school for their children.

However, despite increases in places and funding over the last two years, it faces a real challenge, with 256,000 places still required by 2014/15. Furthermore, there are indications of strain on school places.

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.

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  1. National

Around 256,000 extra school places needed by 2014

The National Audit Office report suggests that the heightened demand for primary school places is partly down to a rising birth rate - the rise in the number of children born in England between 2001 and 2011 was the biggest 10-year increase since the 1950s.

Between 2006/07 and 2011/12, the number of four-year-olds starting reception classes rose by 16%, it says.

It warns that by September 2014, an estimated extra 256,000 primary and secondary school places will be needed to meet the demand. Of these, 240,000 are required in primary schools, with more than a third (37%) needed in London alone.

These extra places are still needed despite a net increase of almost 81,500 places which were created between 2010 and May 2012, and the DfE increasing the amount of funding it gives to local councils to provide spaces.

How many places will be required in the future is uncertain, the NAO says, but it is expected that more will be needed beyond next year.

  1. National

Real strain on school places, spending watchdog warns

Between 2006/07 and 2011/12, the number of four-year-olds starting reception classes rose by 16%. Credit: PA

Tens of thousands of extra school places will be needed by next year amid a continuing surge in demand, the spending watchdog warned today.

Despite more than 80,000 extra primary spaces being created in the last two years, there are still signs of a real strain on school places, according to a new report by the National Audit Office (NAO).

It says that the Government is pumping billions of pounds into establishing more places, but suggests that the Department for Education (DfE) still needs a better understanding of the costs, and the impact its funding is having in local areas.

South East school places - full report

Thousands of children in the south east have received the news they've been anxiously waiting for today - which secondary school they'll be going to in September.

But while many are celebrating winning places at the schools of their choice, for hundreds there has been bitter disappointment.

In Kent, 357 children missed out on a place at any of the three schools they had picked.

In East Sussex, a much smaller authority it was just 50. But are people making their decisions based purely on good exam results? Our social affairs correspondent Christine Alsford reports.

She speaks to Tina Bora, a mother who's daughter Daniella is going to secondary school in September, John Toland, Principal Mayfield Academy, Stuart Gardner, Principal, the Rochester Grammar School, and David Brown, Principal, the Oxford Academy.

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Wiltshire - 96% of pupils get first choice secondary school

Wiltshire Council has posted offers of secondary school places today to all applicants whose forms were submitted by the deadline of 31 October 2012.

The authority said 4,400 children have applied to start secondary school in the county in September 2013.

Officials say a record 96% of children have been offered their first choice school, up from 93.5% last year.

Offers must be accepted or rejected by 18 March, after that deadline the 200 submissions made after the closing date will be considered.

“This is an important time for children and their parents and to be able to provide so many with their first choice of secondary school is particularly good news.”

– Lionel Grundy, Cabinet member for children services

“I am pleased we have handled so many applications on time and such a high proportion of children are being offered their first choice school. My team has worked extremely hard to ensure we have effectively handled all applications.”

– Debbie Clare, Admissions co-ordinator
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