September 21 2014 Latest news:
Annabelle Dickson, Political Editor
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Norfolk’s bulge in births which will see more infant and junior school places needed has been highlighted in the Houses of Parliament.
Norwich MP Chloe Smith told MPs that the most recent figures suggest that 17 out of 25 infant, junior and primary schools in her patch had forecast that they will exceed their existing capacity.
Her comments came in a debate called by shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, who claimed money had been wrongly spent on new free schools, while infant class sizes had soared.
He said the Department for Education had carried on with its pet projects rather than dealing with a quickly growing problem of overcrowding.
He said the coalition Government had marked out shrinking class sizes as a vital step to getting standards up.
“The figures are truly shocking. The number of primary schools with over 800 pupils in them has rocketed by over 381pc. More and more so-called titan primary schools are struggling to educate their pupils... headteachers and teachers are doing their best in the most difficult of circumstances.
“The number of infants taught in classes bigger than 30 has soared to 93,655 - a staggering 200pc rise since 2010,” he added.
Norfolk County Council said last week that it was planning for an extra 4,300 school places within four years.
It said that while it has been handed almost £34m from the Department for Education to create new school places, it could not be sure if that will be enough.
Research by the Local Government Association (LGA) suggested more than three quarters of council had not received enough government money to create extra school places between 2011 and 2016.
But Ms Smith said she had been working with schools and she had urged Norfolk County Council to plan ahead. She said that a move to provide a three-year allocation would help it to make preparations.
She also hit out at the previous Labour Government claiming that it had failed to give Norfolk a fair funding formula.
Ms Smith came under fire from the opposition benches after claiming during her speech that Labour believed Norfolk and Norwich was a “dumping ground” for the rest of the country, following former cabinet minister Hazel Blears comments that terror suspects should be sent to Norwich under relocation powers.
Labour MPs reacted with anger accusing Ms Smith of breaking convention by not giving Ms Blears warning that she was going to refer to her comments, and a chance to respond in the House of Commons chamber.