Immigration’s effect on state schools minimal; recession is the prime factor

The parents are giving up on private education to save money

16 July 2009: Immigration has little to do with it. The Local Government Association (LGA) says at least a fifth of English local authorities are talking of a growing pressure on some state schools; and funding is being made available to local authorities facing a 15 per cent growth in four and five-year-olds in their area between September 2008 and September 2011.

But it is largely due to the recession. The parents, giving up on private education to save money, is being cited as a reason. In fact, the LGA says the recession may actually be forcing some parents to abandon costly private education in favour of the state sector.

The fact that 15.5 per cent of councils, reporting a rise in families applying for free school meals for their children, gives credence to the economic downturn theory.

Another factor is the lack of movement in the housing market. Reports indicate more families are remaining in inner-city areas, instead of moving out to the suburbs. It means fewer families are moving when their children reach school age. The impact of immigration is being considered minimal.

A survey carried out by the LGA says 20 per cent of councils have experienced increased demand for state school places during the past six months. Another 13 per cent of councils are expecting extra pressure on places in the future.

Explaining the trend, School Secretary Ed Balls says the birth rate has been rising nationally since 2001. Taking this into consideration, the government has already made funds available to deal with the projected pupil growth.

He adds the problem stems from the fact that some local authorities simply fail to plan for dealing with rising birth rates, while a combination of localised circumstances has led others to face unanticipated rise in demand for reception-age pupils.

Linking demand for school places with immigration, co-chairs of the cross-party group on balanced migration, Frank Field and Nicholas Soames, however, say the percentage of births to foreign born women in England has risen from 17.1 per cent in 2001 to 24 per cent in 2007.

As such, it is evident the need to increase funding for primary schools is a direct result of mass immigration, they insist.

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