Call for more Leeds school powers

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AN EDUCATION boss in Leeds has backed calls for councils to be given more power to open its own schools to meet the demand for places.

The Local Government Association has said that councils need to be able to compel academies to expand or be allowed to open their own schools.

It comes as the deadline for parents applying for places in reception at primary school arrives at midnight tonight.

Coun Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council’s executive member for children and families said: “The systematic stripping of powers makes it very difficult for local authorities to plan school places and ensure that these places are where parents need them to be.

“We strongly believe that local authorities are best placed to identify the need for school places and although it is our responsibility to meet demand in the city, we have no power to open new schools. We are also facing a £67 million shortfall in money from the government to enable us to provide sufficient places in existing schools, which further compounds the issue.”

Primary school places was a controversial issue in the city last year after a campaign group was formed in North Leeds claiming parents were living in a “places blackhole” with no chance of getting into local schools. More than 80 parents in Roundhay, Moortown and Alwoodley missed out on any of their preferred primaries despite opting for local schools.

A high-profile parents campaign followed and Leeds City Council secured an extra 90 places at three primaries: Highfield, Gledhow and Wigton Moor. A parent-led plan for a primary free school in Roundhay for 2017 has been submitted to the Department for Education which aims to provide a school place for parents living in the area affected last year.