Today's news review looks at the coverage around the LGA report on secondary school places and the roll out of 30 hours free childcare.
Secondary school places
Today, Friday 1 September, the Local Government Association produced analysis on the demand for secondary school places and the number of councils potentially at risk of being oversubscribed.
The Association’s analysis has received prominent coverage across print and broadcast media, including on BBC News online, The Today Programme, The Independent and The Daily Mail.
Whilst some coverage has led with the angle that there won’t be enough places for children at secondary schools, this is misleading. Local authorities have a statutory duty to ensure there is a school place for every child and the Department for Education give local authorities funding based on their own estimates of how many places they need.
As well, at primary level, 90.0% of applicants received an offer of their first choice school, and 97.2% received an offer of one of their top three preferences.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
These figures are thoroughly misleading. Local authorities have a statutory duty to ensure that there is a school place available for every child. We have allocated £5.8 billion of basic need funding between 2015 and 2020 to enable them to do this, and over 735,000 additional pupil places were created between 2010 and 2016. This money is given to councils based on their own estimates of the number of places they will need.
We also know that a vast majority of parents are securing a place for their child at their first choice of secondary school - 83.5 per cent this year, with more than 94 per cent having received offers at one of their top three choices.
Today, 1 September, the government began its rollout of an extra 15 hours’ free childcare for eligible parents, on top of an already universal scheme of 15 hours free childcare for parents.
This new 30 hours free childcare offer was picked up by The Daily Mail, which led by saying that one in three nurseries could close within a year due to the new programme.
Councils are being given an average hourly rate of £4.94 to fund the scheme, and of this money more than 90% must go to providers. This level of funding is above what an independent study has put the average hourly cost of providing childcare for 3 and 4-year-olds at, which is £3.72.
Research shows providers recognise the advantages of the scheme, with more than 80% willing and able to offer it.
In the first 12 areas to benefit, 15,000 children have already accessed an early education, saving families around £5,000 a year on their childcare costs.
With the scheme now rolling out across the country, 200,000 applications have now been made which will allow parents to increase their working hours, spend more quality time with their children and increase their household income.