Shadow Minister blames East End’s school crisis on lack of investment

Shadow Education Minister Tristram Hunt (right) after his visit to Morpeth School with MP Rushanara

Shadow Education Minister Tristram Hunt (right) after his visit to Morpeth School with MP Rushanara Ali and Tower Hamlets candidate for mayor John Biggs - Credit: TH Labour Pty

Fewer children are managing to get their first choice of schools in London’s East End than in previous years because of a growing shortage of classroom places.

These included 157 youngsters who also failed to get any of their five alternative choices and have had to be allocated a school their parents didn’t want, latest figures show.

The crisis was blamed by the Shadow Education Secretary on “a lack of investment” when he visited the East End.

Labour’s Tristram Hunt made the point at a news conference at Bethnal Green Labour Party HQ after visiting a nearby secondary which was one of the Tower Hamlets schools receiving cash under the last government’s Building Schools for the Future programme.

“Schools in Tower Hamlets were transformed from being among the worst in the country to the most improved,” he said. “But there is now a serious problem with a shortage of school places, which the current Mayor of Tower Hamlets has failed to address.”

Families failing to get a first preference for their children or any preference means longer commutes, broken social groups and a more challenging school life, the Shadow Minister pointed out.

He was joined on his fact-finding tour of the East End by Bethnal Green & Bow MP Rushanara Ali and by Labour’s candidate for Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs who challenges independent Mayor Lutfur Rahman at the polls in May for control of the Town Hall’s £1.2 billion budget.

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Biggs pledged priority on education and to help schools create extra places where needed.

Tower Hamlets council has been battling to cut through the shortage of classroom places with several schemes started last year including converting a former teacher-training college in Mile End into a primary school.

Numbers of pupils getting their first choice dropped by 107 in September, compared to 2012, the figures show. One-in-100 children also failed to get any of their choice of six and have had to be allocated a place they didn’t ask for. More than half the youngsters in Limehouse alone failed to get their first preference.