THE Government needs to fire-up a massive school building programme to deliver more than 2,000 schools in England by 2020 to meet booming pupil numbers reports Construction Enquirer.The depth of the country’s school places crisis has been thrown into the spotlight in new research for public sector procurement specialist Scape Group.The report makes specific reference to Thurrock stating that it will see the fifth largest growth in pupil numbers in the country.The report states that it will need to find 4,354 pupil places in eleven extra primary schools and two extra senior schools.Sceptics may say that this is simply the construction industry “touting for work” but nevertheless, that does not mean that they are wrong.What may concern many in Thurrock is that many of the applications for school places are for senior schools unless of course their applications cover pupils from year 1.Mark Robinson, chief executive of Scape Group, said: “The country will soon start to feel the full weight of the impending boom in pupil numbers, and we’re already seeing unprecedented pressure on school places. A radical new wave of school-building must be a top priority for government. He added: “The government’s preference for free schools has created uncertainty for local authorities, who are tasked with planning and building new schools, but will not be responsible for running them. Proposals for new grammar schools has further muddied the waters.”In a post-Brexit economy, with all of the uncertainty this brings, the construction of new schools must be a top priority for government and local authorities must be given the tools and funding necessary to deliver extra places in time.”Creative solutions including standardised design, classroom extensions and larger super-schools’, as well as more effective use of land to deliver mixed-use developments, are all options we need to look at to deliver more new schools. Andrew Alsbury, Willmott Dixon education director, said: “The continued and urgent need for a well-planned long-term solution to meet rising school place demand in the face of increasing pressure on capital budgets is one of our biggest challenges over the next decade. It needs a joined-up approach between the public and private sectors, as well as local and central government to bridge the gap.
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