Surplus School Places

More grist to the School Voucher debate mill:

The number of surplus school places in England has risen to 758,000 – the highest level since 1998.

This is the equivalent of more than 2,000 average-sized primary and 250 secondary schools lying empty.

Later on it states that 12% of Primary School places and 7% of Secondary School places are vacant, while some education authorities such as Birmingham have up to 25% vacancies.

How would vouchers change this? Surplus spaces aren’t necessarily a bad thing. There is always surplus in any system (and when there isn’t… look what happened during the fuel crisis in 2000) and any system which maximises ‘choice’ has to factor in a certain amount of redundancy. Once again, I suspect it largely depends on what level you set the voucher. But what does the panel think?


  1. It isn’t Lib Dem policy. In essence, a school voucher system is one where parents are given a fixed amount of money in the form of a voucher that they can use to ‘buy’ their child’s education. It would replace the current admissions/funding system for schools.

    A similar system is used in Sweden, the Netherlands and elsewhere. In terms of more specific details however, that depends on who you talk to.

  2. I wonder how the DfeS defines “surplus places”. Presumably it depends on your definition of class size?

    A voucher will not deal with this issue per se. You need privatised schools which can go bust when they are uneconomic to run.

  3. Also, spare places would have to be fungible. Spare places in Inverness are of little use to parents in Exeter. To make this work, you’ll need fleets of prefab schoolrooms chugging up and down the country.

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