Councils planning policies block new private schools
Given the desperate challenge of parents like Mrinal Patel to get their children into good schools, this piece in The Economist this week about prospects for expansion of private schools is topical. Councils could do more to encourage new private schools to open, and existing ones to expand, by making this an objective of their planning policy. It is true that new schools, even small ones, create pressures in terms of traffic. But planners could identify particular sites or districts where this pressure would be manageable.
The Economist says:
Nor can new competitors easily creep in and undercut incumbents. In big cities, where people want private education most, property is scarce and dear, and local officials are obstructive. “Planning departments put all sorts of obstacles in your way,” says Robert Whelan of Civitas, a think-tank that runs three rare low-cost “New Model Schools” in London. (Fees, at just over £5,000, are little more than half the average for private day schools in the capital.) “They
seem to care more about their traffic plans than anything else.”
Some Councils might not wish to encourage new, low cost fee paying schools to open. Their concern being that if parents have a greater choice of good schools then fewer of them will be willing to use the worse LEA schools. This desire to thwart competition strikes me as the wrong attitude.