THREE Northamptonshire schools this week caved in to pressure from local and central government to accept 18 extra pupils, even though they claim to be crammed to capacity.
The move came after it emerged that the youngsters, from Wellingborough, had been going without lessons because the town's three secondaries said they had no room.
As foundation schools, Sir Christopher Hatton, Weavers and Wrenn secondaries could not be forced by the education authority to accept the children. But, following a meeting between the Department for Education and Employment, the local authority and the schools, the headteachers were persuaded to take the pupils "as an act of goodwill".
David Dobson, head of Sir Christopher Hatton, which will take five pupils, blamed the shortage of places on the local authority's decision to close Wellingborough's fourth secondary, the John Lea school, in 1997.
A loan of almost pound;1 million from the Government will also be made to Northamptonshire LEA in order to fund 150 new places at Wollaston community school about five miles outside Wellingborough.
But Graham Lane, education chair of the Local Government Association, warned of more difficulties ahead. He said: "I can foresee the same thing happening in Bromley and Watford, where there are foundation schools clustered together."
Elsewhere, shortages of places were blamed on parents choosing to send their children to schools in neighbouring authorities. In Enfield, where around 160 secondary-age youngsters are being taught part-time in a local library more than a fifth of the 45,000 secondary pupils come from surrounding boroughs.
Around 200 pupils in Buckinghamshire are being educated in mobile classrooms while permanent buildings are put up to cope with increasing demand.
New research from Cardiff University shows the number of parents appealing against the school place allocated has more than doubled from 4.2 per cent of admissions in 199394 to 8.7 per cent in 199899. Around 32 per cent of parents who get their appeal heard gain a place at their preferred school.