The number of surplus places in English schools has fallen by more than 22,000, schools standards minister Estelle Morris has revealed. However, the latest figures show that one in 11 places (710,000) was still unfilled in January 2000.
Ministers have urged local education authorities to cut the number of surplus places, particularly in schools where more than 25 per cent of places are empty. But this is proving difficult.
Ms Morris admitted that despite the overall reduction of surplus places, the number of schools with at least a quarter of plaes unfilled had risen from 2,391 to 2,406. The minister, responding to a question from Labour MP Andrew Miller, said it was due to a fall in the number of primary pupils. The proportion of secondaries with surplus capacity of at least 25 per cent had fallen from 13 to 11 per cent.
Bradford has the biggest proportion of surplus secondary places in England (21 per cent). More than half the city's secondaries are unable to fill at least a quarter of places. By contrast, Cornwall and Wokingham reported that only 1 per cent of places were empty.