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Primary Education: Greater London

Volume 505: debated on Tuesday 2 February 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many representations (a) he and (b) Ministers in his Department have received from (i) hon. Members and (ii) London boroughs on the number of primary school places in London in (A) 2008 and (B) 2009; how many (1) requests for meetings each received from and (2) meetings each had with (x) hon. Members and with (y) London boroughs on the matter; and which boroughs were involved in each case. (313452)

There are no records from 2008 that the Secretary of State or other Ministers received representations on the number of primary school places in London or requests to discuss the matter, nor that meetings with hon. Members or with representatives of London boroughs to discuss this matter took place.

In 2009, there were two Westminster Hall debates which were relevant: on 3 March 2009, Official Report, columns 207-30WH, the hon. Member secured a debate on “Primary School Places (London)” to which the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North (Sarah McCarthy-Fry), then a DCSF Minister, responded. On 20 May 2009, Official Report, columns 426-34WH, the hon. Member for St. Albans (Anne Main) secured a Westminster Hall debate on “School Places” to which my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North (Sarah McCarthy-Fry) also responded. There have also been references to the increase in demand for primary places in some areas in written and oral questions during 2009.

In 2009, the Secretary of State did not have any meetings with hon. Members or London borough representatives in order to discuss primary places. Other DCSF ministers had meetings with hon. Members and officers of London boroughs on four occasions where pressure on primary places in London was a main topic of discussion and on three occasions to discuss the pressure on primary places in authorities outside London. Ministers’ practice is to accept requests for meetings but, without incurring disproportionate cost, it is not possible to say with certainty that no requests from hon. Members to DCSF Ministers to discuss this matter were refused. The London boroughs represented at these discussions were Kingston upon Thames, Richmond, Sutton, and Lambeth.

During 2009, there was correspondence between DCSF ministers and hon. Members, and between DCSF officials and representatives of London boroughs and other authorities in which the pressure on primary places was among the topics covered, but a separate record has not been maintained of the items of correspondence which included mentions of the topic.

In addition, DCSF officials have on many occasions since the beginning of 2009 discussed primary place pressures and how best to address them through meetings and correspondence with officers of several London boroughs and other authorities; and also with members of representative organisations including the Local Government Association, London Councils, the Association of London Directors of Children’s Services and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services.