Concern over school place shortage
Fresh concerns have been raised about a chronic lack of school places, with some areas of England forced to lay on up to 20 extra classes to meet demand.
There are fears that the current lack of spaces in primary schools will worsen as children grow up and move on to secondaries, according to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA).
The concerns come amid a 23% rise in complaints to the OSA - often from parents - about school admissions arrangements. Many of these are related to school catchment areas and priority, or lack of priority, being given to brothers and sisters.
In her first annual report, chief schools adjudicator Dr Elizabeth Passmore says local councils from across the country are reporting the need for more primary school places, not just London.
In some cases, "relatively few" extra places are needed, but in others it is "a great many", she says. "Some refer to providing extra classes in previous years, and again this year providing five or nine extra classes or even up to 20 classes giving 600 extra places."
The report says that as local councils have been faced with increasing pupil numbers every year for several years now, they are "beginning to be anxious about providing places when these large cohorts reach secondary school age".
While these councils are able to lay on many extra places in primaries as they are responsible for admissions to these schools, the situation is different for secondary schools. Many secondaries - such as academies and faith schools - are responsible for their own admissions, and there are concerns that "it may prove difficult to provide additional places if those schools do not wish to expand".
A large part of the adjudicator's job is to investigate complaints about schools' admissions. The report says there were 156 objections submitted to the adjudicator this year, a 23% increase on the 127 cases submitted last year.
Just over half of these were from parents, with others coming from schools, councils, members of the public, church dioceses and a teachers' union.
A Department for Education spokesman said: "We know there is a demand for good school places and we are creating thousands more to deal with the impact of rising birth rates on schools. Since 2011 we have made £2.7 billion available for local authorities who face the greatest pressure on places." Plans to open free schools and allow popular schools to expand will also create more places, he added.