Birmingham is in the grip of a ‘baby boom’ crisis, with the city council being forced to build temporary classrooms in a bid to tackle a desperate shortage of primary school places.
In some overstretched areas of the city, the council is using emergency government cash to lay on extra rooms to meet the demand for primary school places.
One councillor said young children are sent across the other side of the city for schooling.
The council has admitted that it needs to find another 1,000 reception-age places in the centre of the city in the next five years. A report from education officers, that will be heard this Wednesday, says demand has also been fuelled in inner city areas by newly-arrived families.
The highest demand is in Washwood Heath, Sparkhill, Sparkbrook and Small Heath.
The council plans to install 13 temporary classrooms by September and further temporary classrooms are planned in 2011 and 2012.
In the last available figures 2,000 more babies were born in 2007 than five years earlier.
That is expected to increase over the next two to three years, with births due to rise by an unprecedented 5,000, partly due to more young women of child-bearing age making their home in the city.
Washwood Heath’s Labour councillor, Ansar Ali Khan, said the problem was raised with him on an almost daily basis. He added: “This is a major problem. It is the number one concern. We have children in temporary cabins, which is no good for the children or the schools that are already struggling to meet national standards.
“I spoke to a resident this week who is still trying to get her son into a local primary school. She has lived in Washwood Heath for four years, but she is forced to send her son to Handsworth.
“We desperately need a new school in the area. The government has handed over millions of pounds and the council is dithering. Liam Byrne, MP, has been campaigning with us for a new school.
“The land has been identified, it is up for sale, but nothing has been done.”
The man who heads up the Education Department, Councillor Les Lawrence, said the council was looking to build brand new schools to cope with demand.
He added that they were looking at “innovative ways” to pay for the “very significant pressure” of extra school places and that there would be refurbishment and expansion of older schools.
Coun Lawrence said: “There is a very significant pressure to build additional school places in Birmingham because of the increase in the birth rate.
“This is not just in the inner city areas but across the city. At the end of the day we have to build new schools. But there is just not the land lying about.
“The capital is finite and we will have to make choices on locations, the schools and in what order.
“We are looking at working with private developers to regenerate land owned by the city council. Land privately owned by developers may also be looked at in the future.
“This work has and will continue to give the construction industry in the West Midlands a real boost.”