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A quarter of a million extra school places will be needed in England by autumn 2014 to meet rising demand, the National Audit Office (NAO) is warning.
The spending watchdog said one in five primary schools in England was full or near capacity and there were signs of "real strain" on places.
The demand for places has been driven by the birth rate rising more quickly than at any time since the 1950s.
Ministers say 80,000 extra places have been created and demand will be met.
Schools minister David Laws said the government was "reversing completely idiotic policies" followed under Labour that had seen 200,000 school places cut.
Labour has denied the claim and accuses the coalition of creating a "crisis".
The NAO's report said that despite the creation of those 80,000 extra places in the past two years and an overall surplus of places nationwide, the system was under strain and that, until last year, the government was unable to identify "hotspots" easily.
The past decade had seen the biggest 10-year increase in birth rate since the 1950s, said the NAO.
In total, 256,000 new school places are needed by 2014-15 - 240,000 in primary schools, it said.
London has the greatest need - accounting for 37% of the extra primary places required, according to the NAO - but there are pressure points in Leeds, Manchester, Bristol, Cambridgeshire, Derby, Hampshire and other areas too. (BBC News website)
- Which sentence has a non-essential element in this passage?