As many as two in five reception children in some parts of London will not have a school place by 2016, unless action is taken, the NUT has warned.
The union says that school planning and provision must be put back in the hand of local authorities to avoid a massive shortfall of places in the next few years.
It is launching its School Places Crisis campaign today at the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow. The union says that although there is a predicted shortfall nationwide, it is most acute in London and warns that Croydon is most severely hit with a predicted shortfall of 39 per cent of primary places in three years’ time, if nothing is done.
It comes after the Local Government Association revealed earlier this month that some schools have had to convert music rooms and libraries into classrooms. It estimates that two thirds of councils could have more children hoping to start primary, than they currently have places for in 2016.
New laws introduced by the coalition government in 2010 mean that there is now a presumption that any new school opened will be an academy or free school, a move that critics warn makes the process of planning new schools for where they are most needed very difficult.
“As a result of the Government’s academy and free schools programme," Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said, "local councils find themselves in the untenable position of having responsibility for providing quality primary and secondary places but no power to plan, commission or build schools.
“We need to see an end to this totally chaotic approach to education provision and return to policies which work for all children and young people. Local authorities know best where and when places are needed in their communities. They need the power to open new schools.
“Failure to do so by the Secretary of State will result in huge upset and confusion for many families. He will also seriously threaten the right of every child to an education.”
Croydon Council spokesman said that there was a significant rise in pupil numbers predicted but it had recently been awarded £110m from the government towards a £163m investment programme to ensure that there would be sufficient schools for every child to have a place.
The latest government statistics on trends in pupil numbers, published in March, predict numbers in primary schools will rise by nine per cent between 2012 and 2016.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are spending £1.6 billion by 2015 on creating new school places in London. We are working closely with councils to ensure that money is targeted where it is needed most.”