HUNDREDS of children will be left without secondary school places unless the Government acts to resolve a 'desperate situation' in Bolton, council bosses have warned.

Bolton Council estimates that there are currently 145 more Year Six pupils across the borough than there are available new secondary school places for next September.

That shortfall is expected to more than double by 2019 and rise to 725 by 2023 under the borough's current capacity.

The crisis is being blamed on an 'inadequate' amount of basic need funding allocated to Bolton by the Department for Education (DfE) to expand schools.

It was revealed last week that the Government's latest funding offer falls £9 million short of the £24 million the councils needs to meet its fundamental statutory duty to provide school places.

The town's political parties are now writing to education minister Lord Agnew, calling on him to urgently address the severe shortage of places.

A joint letter — signed by council leader Cliff Morris and opposition leaders David Greenhalgh and Sean Hornby — said: "The methodology employed by DfE to achieve the outcome of £15 million is deeply flawed and penalises Bolton for its proactive approach to pupil place planning in that the council has created additional school places once notified what our future allocation will be rather than waiting for receipt of the funding.

"This places the council in a desperate situation. Years Four, Five, and Six are full and above Planned Admission Number (PAN) across the town.

"There are approximately 150 more children in the current Year Six than we have places available in Year Seven.

"The council will not have sufficient secondary school places on National Offer Day to offer every child a Year Seven place."

The three party leaders added that Bolton Council has 'repeatedly warned' the Department for Education about the impending crisis, but that their concerns have 'not been taken seriously nor sympathetically'.

At present, Bolton’s 18 mainstream secondary schools provide 3,729 Year Seven places for pupils transferring from primary schools and for new pupils arriving into the borough.

But this capacity will reduce to 3,679 in September when Smithills Academy reduces its PAN from 250 to 180.

The council estimates that it will cost £17 million to deliver the necessary secondary school place expansion, which would cater for around 210 pupils.

A further £7.6 million is also needed for primary school expansion plans.

However, the DfE has indicated that it will only offer £15.6 million.

Turton School headteacher, Sam Gorse, said: "We are doing our bit here. We increased our pupil numbers by 30 this year and, as a result, the corridors and classrooms are quite tight.

"The local authority has agreed to fund an expansion to our building.

"But that doesn't solve the whole problem, unfortunately. Obviously these numbers are a concern, but I am not 100 per cent convinced of the accuracy of those figures.

"I would like to take all of the children from our catchment area, but I can't.

"One of the things this might do is pressure more parents into sending their children to private schools, which is something I don't want them to feel that they have to do."