Kent schools warning: £100m needed to provide 12,500 extra school places

by Paul Francis

County education chiefs have warned they face a funding shortfall of £100m to build new and expand existing schools to meet escalating demand for places.

A report setting out the predicted growth in demand for school places in Kent says an additional 12,500 places are needed, meaning the overall number rising from 79,000 places to 91,500 between now and 2022.

The lack of places is identified as a key risk for the authority in budget papers issued this week.

KCC leader Paul Carter said the authority was “between a rock and a hard place” when it came to finding the money needed.

The council needs £100m to provide more places at schools. Stock image
The council needs £100m to provide more places at schools. Stock image

He said the council would effectively have to take out a mortgage to fund school expansions even though most secondaries were academy schools for which KCC had no responsibility.

He said: “We are between a rock and a hard place on this. Most of our secondary schools are now academies yet we are having to pay to meet the need because the [government] grant does not cover the costs.”

'The big increase that has been coming through in primary places is now being reflected in secondary places'

He added: “The prospect of borrowing £100m through basically a mortgage over the next 25 years to expand schools that we have no control over is leaving a lot of councils very unhappy.”

Cllr Roger Gough cabinet member for children’s services added: “The big increase that has been coming through in primary is now being reflected in secondary places.

"Numbers are continuing in both categories but it is much more marked in secondary.

"Primary rolls will still rise from 123,000 in 2016 to 129,000 in 2020-21. In secondary, you go from 79,000 to 91,500 in the same period.”

The Commissioning Plan for Education Provision was due to be debated by county councillors at a cross-party watchdog committee.

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