School places

MQT on 2015-03-25
Session date: 
March 25, 2015
Question By: 
Jennette Arnold OBE
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Given your commitment in your Education Programme Delivery Plan 2013 to help address the crisis in school places, what are your thoughts about the latest figures that show a rise in the number of pupils missing out on their first school choice in London?


Answer for School places

Answer for School places

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  You have asked what we are doing, given the Education Programme Delivery Plan 2013, to help address the crisis in school places and what about the rise in the number of pupils missing out on their first choice school in London.  I agree completely; this is something that is of great concern.  The issue is not just about the number of school places, though that is clearly important.  We need more schools of all types, and you will be familiar with the campaigns we run with Government to get more funding for schools.  London’s population is growing.  It is also about giving parents more confidence that they are going to get a good school.  We have to build more schools of all types, and we have to increase the performance of schools. 


One of the things that we launched was the Interactive London Schools Atlas in 2013 so that you can see where all the schools are and see what your options are for your kids, though it is true already that London schools are now outperforming the rest of the country for all sorts of fascinating reasons.  We are focusing on improving standards through the London Schools Gold Club, the Schools Excellence Fund and the London Curriculum.  What I want is more schools in London, and that is what we are fighting for.  That is one of the reasons, when we come to disposals of public buildings and public land in London, why we put the accent when we can on good, new school developments as well. 


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Deputy Chair):  Firstly, this question is not about performance.  I totally agree with you about their performance.  There is not a competition here.  At last it seems to me that everybody is on the same page. 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Totally, yes.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Deputy Chair):  We are in a situation of crisis and unless action is taken, it is not going to get any better.  I welcome pupils from George Mitchell School in my constituency. I know from the statistics that they probably had their first choice of school because this is one of the very few - a handful - boroughs that are able to accommodate their current populations.  If I say to you and get on record and just give you a sense of the scale of the crisis heading our way unless action is taken on what is going to be, in three years’ time Barking and Dagenham will need 2,128 additional primary school places;  Harrow will need an additional 2,421 additional primary school places.  As we know, children grow and so they go on to secondary school.  Currently, 37% of schools are at or over their capacity.  Going back to some figures now that I am sure my colleague Onkar [Dr Onkar Sahota] would like to hear, in three years’ time in Ealing, you will need an additional 2,042 additional secondary places.  I do not like to speak without referencing my colleague, Tony Arbour; in Sutton they will need 1,940 additional secondary places.  The situation is critical. 


As well as looking at your GLA land responsibility, will you just take away this proposal that I am putting to you?  You have used the Free School Department that you have and I disagree with you in terms of how you used it because, indeed, you provided free school places in boroughs that had no need.  I am asking you today to use your powers for the wider good of London and in your last year to scrap your Free Schools Department and turn it into a unit focused on providing provision in areas of dire need of school places.  That would be something that you would be leaving behind and it is something that will have to be addressed by the next Mayor of London.  This is a strategic issue and an issue that is beyond council and territorial boundaries. 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Sure.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Deputy Chair):  It is about ensuring that London’s children, with the support of their parents and everybody else, can get their first choice because we know first-choice schools nearer to homes deliver performances.  That is what we all want. 


Roger Evans AM (Chairman):  That was a record-length question.  Congratulations.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  The answer is yes.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Deputy Chair):  Thank you. 


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I do not know what the question really was, but the answer is yes.  We have to increase the number of school places. 


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Deputy Chair):  Do consider it.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  London has a massive crisis and huge demographic pressures, but we also have to have a wide variety of schools.  I do not know of any borough that actually is rejecting any of our initiatives to help with more schools.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Deputy Chair):  Use your powers.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  On the contrary, they are very supportive.  All I can say is that we have to step it up and we had another £300 million, if you remember, for school places in London.  London parents show absolutely no sign of producing any fewer children, quite the reverse.  The population is growing the whole time and we need more.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Deputy Chair):  OK.  I hear you saying yes to refocusing your unit.  Thank you.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  No.  The unit is doing very well at the moment and I am supporting ‑‑


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Deputy Chair):  Refocus.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  You can put words into my mouth if you like, but what we will do - go ahead, it will not do you any good - is to continue with the record of success that we have.  I agree that the problem is there.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Deputy Chair):  School places in the right places.