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News round-up 15/3: Cramped school classrooms

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Your daily media round up of all the key stories affecting local government

Education

The Independent reports that a shortfall in school places has led to overcrowded classrooms.

A report by the National Audit Office found the number of children aged between five and seven taught in classes of more than 31 pupils has more than doubled in last five years and that there was a need for 256,000 new school places by September 2014 to meet demand.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Schools Minister David Laws placed responsibility for the reduction in places on the previous Labour Government, however Labour’s school’s spokesperson Kevin Brennan argued the Government was failing to deliver on new school buildings.

 

The Guardian also reports on the NAO’s findings. It says that despite almost 81,500 more primary school places being provided in the last two years, there will be “real strain” on school places and that the NAO – parliament’s spending watchdog – thinks the Department for Education has failed to understand the costs involved and the local funding impact.

The heightened demand for primary school places is partly down to a rising birth rate, with 2001-11 seeing the biggest 10-year jump since the 1950s.

 

Democracy

Just three people tuned in to some of the live online broadcasts of Bristol city council’s meetings, the Daily Telegraph reports, adding that the project cost almost £100,000. However, it says, the council claimed the scheme to put its meetings online was a “huge success” because hundreds of people watched the meetings later through the archive system on the council’s website.

 

Welfare reform

Foster carers who look after more than one child could still be charged hundreds of pounds a year under the ‘bedroom tax’ despite concessions announced this week by work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

The Guardian reports that charities are concerned that the concession applies only to a single room for a fostered child and so would not help those who foster two or more children or who also have children of their own.

Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, said: “We are extremely concerned for those who have more than one bedroom for fostered children. “Forcing foster carers to rely on the discretionary housing fund was always an inherently flawed idea.”

 

Environment

Britain’s wildlife and landscapes could face disaster if a merger between Natural England and the Environment Agency goes ahead, reports the Times.

The heads of more than 20 leading environment agencies, including Friends of the Earth, the RSPB and the Campaign to Protect Rural England have warned against the proposals for a merger, arguing it would lead to pressures to prioritise flood defence over wildlife.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • The unintended consequences of the bedroom tax continue unabated and it is something that the Coalition, after nearly three years of office, cant blame on the last Labour government.

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