Supporters of the Government’s controversial free schools policy have accused Birmingham City Council of creating 2,800 new primary places at failing schools in the city.
The New Schools Network, a charity which receives government funding to advise parents, teachers and community groups on how to set up free schools, criticised the quality of city primary schools as it published a report about new places.
But the comments were condemned as “outrageous” by a city MP.
Steve McCabe (Lab Selly Oak) said the claims were a slur on successful schools which had expanded.
Opponents of free schools, which are funded by central government independent of local authority control, argue that they are often opened in areas which already have sufficient school places, creating problems for existing schools and wasting money.
However, the Free Schools Network said its research showed new schools are needed not only to meet demand for places but also because some existing schools are not currently performing well enough.
It said more than 2,800 new primary places have been created in Birmingham schools that are failing or below average over the past five years.
Birmingham local authority created 10,360 new places in existing schools to meet rising demand but 27 per cent of these, more than one in four, were in schools that Ofsted had judged as “inadequate” or “requires improvement”.
Across England, this number compared to 71,000 of new places, 20 per cent, were created in underperforming schools.
Nick Timothy, director of New Schools Network said: “This research demonstrates the clear need for good new schools in Birmingham and right across the country.
“Authorities have been working hard to meet rising demand for school places, but these numbers show beyond doubt that we need more new schools – not just to meet demand but to improve the quality of provision.”
But Mr McCabe said free schools were being opened in areas where there was a surplus of places, leading to shortages elsewhere.
He said: “If we are not careful we will have pupils bussed across the city from areas with shortages of places to areas with a surplus. It’s not a rational way to run a schools system.”
A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “We have in fact created nearly three times as many places in good or outstanding schools.
“As a local authority we need to ensure there are school places where they are needed across the city and our objective is to ensure every child attends a good school
“If places are not available it puts pressure on families to find places for their children and managing this is a fundamental responsibility for the city. It is a complicated and often counter-intuitive issue and is not simply a case of creating new places regardless of location.
“It’s no good having new schools opening in one part of the city when the places are needed elsewhere , and it is a very big problem if schools open where there are not enough children to fill all of the places in the area, as it spreads resources too thinly.”
The spokesperson added: “An added complication is the fractured nature of the education landscape, with increasing numbers of academy conversions and free schools, both of which answer directly to the Department for Education.”