Capacity at primary schools must be expanded as parents hit by the recession desert independent schools in favour of state education, it was claimed. The comments – by Lambeth Council in South London – are believed to be the first time a local authority has admitted services are being stretched by the downturn. It comes just weeks after the Audit Commission suggested as many as one-in-10 authorities was seeing increased demand for state school places. The public services watchdog said demand for desks was a particular problem in London which has the highest concentration of privately-educated children. In some parts of the capital only half of pupils currently get into their first choice secondary school because of the competition for places. Private schools claim pupil numbers may actually be increasing.
A study this week by the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, which represents 250 elite schools, said applications were up as much as eight per cent for September, although schools admitted hundreds of pupils were also being pulled out by parents hit by the downturn. Officials in Lambeth said they needed 600 extra primary places by 2015 – on top of the 840 additional desks being made available at four primary schools. But the authority said it was UK