Council services by letter

Agenda item

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School Place Planning (including Admissions Policy)

Report of the Corporate Director of Children’s Services

Minutes:

The Committee received the report which provided information on the Council’s primary school expansion programme and related school organisation issues.  These included proposals for the secondary school strategy, up-dates on free schools and academies, and school admissions.

 

An officer outlined the content of the report and advised that the consultation on a set of proposals affecting schools across Harrow would close on 11 November 2011.  The consultation documents were included at Annex A to the report.

 

Members made comments and asked a number of questions as follows:

 

·                     A Member stated that a number of primary schools had previously had smaller class sizes in order to accommodate equipment as they had children with physical disabilities and she questioned whether such schools, for example, Elmgrove, were going to be expanded or have their status changed.  She questioned how these schools could know that they no longer required additional equipment, and therefore space, for those children.  The officer advised that it was a calculated risk by the school but they had agreed to take on additional pupils either because they felt they could cope or did not foresee any issues.

 

·                     A Member questioned the cost of the proposals in terms of revenue and capital and was advised that the revenue budget was cost neutral as it was funded from the government’s Direct Schools Grant (DSG).  In terms of capital, the officer advised that London Councils were putting together a case to Government regarding the lack of sufficient funding.

 

·                     Referring to page 4 of the consultation document, a Member questioned how the list of proposed schools for extra permanent places had been prepared.  The officer advised that the criteria had been agreed by a group of officers and a representative group of primary school head teachers.  Another officer advised a range of factors, including accommodation and site size, had been considered.  The group had needed to be sure that there was potential to expand a school, had considered the popularity of a school, demand across the borough and the school ranking in terms of the primary school planning area.

 

·                     A Member stated that the report did not provide an analysis of how well forecasts of school roll projections had been done in the past and how changes in the number of pupils would affect the criteria.  The officer, referred to the table on page 22 of the consultation document, which presented the accuracy analysis.

 

·                     Given the current economic climate, a Member questioned the additional pressures given that parents may no longer be able to afford to send their children to independent schools.  An officer reported that this issue had been more prevalent in other boroughs, such as Richmond and Kingston, and that to date there had not been significant change in Harrow.

 

·                     A Member requested the details on applications to the government’s Priority Schools Building Programme for the 11 schools referred to on page 17 of the report and which schools they were.  An officer advised that the applications were as follows:

 

Aylward Primary School

Cedars Manor School

Elmgrove Primary School and Nursery

Kenmore Park Infant and Nursery School and Kenmore Park Junior School

Longfield Primary School

Marlborough Primary School

Priestmead Primary School and Nursery

Vaughan Primary School

Weald Infant and Nursery School and Weald Junior School

Salvatorian College

Hatch End High School (academy)

 

An application for a new secondary school was also included anticipating the impact of the increasing number of pupils in the primary school sector that would transfer to the secondary school sector in future.

 

·                     Responding to a question on the primary projections, the officer advised that a 5% planning margin had been included which allowed for peaks in demand and some flexibility and choice which would be managed by permanent expansion and the use of bulge classes as required.  Given the Member’s question on the number of bulge classes and number of permanent classes, he would look at the presentation of the data to see if it could be improved.

 

·                     A Member, referring to the predicted peak in 2019, questioned how officers from Children’s Services were working with other departments to address this growth pressure.  The officer advised that there were discussions with planners and performance officers in terms of developments and expected number of young people.

 

·                     A Member stated that the environmental impact paragraph of the report required more detail and the officer took her comments on board.

 

·                     A Member questioned the likely impact of primary school academies.  The officer responded that currently no primary school had formally applied for academy status but if every primary school did apply, a nationwide programme would need to be devised.  This matter was now included on the corporate risk register.

 

·                     Responding to a Member’s question as to the cost of the primary expansion programme and whether the assumption was £7 million, an officer confirmed this figure was an assumed estimate of the future funding from the Department for Education and that the programme would be phased over several years.  The Member was advised that, in terms of deprivation, the local authority received funding.  As part of a feasibility study, consideration would be given to the impact of additional pupils on school sites in terms of a range of issues including dining.

 

·                     A Member stated that Harrow had changing needs due to its demographics and questioned whether the Council was receiving adequate grant per pupil.  The officer advised that the government allocated funding to local authorities for schools and that the Schools Forum decided on the formula to allocate this funding to schools.  The argument in terms of Harrow’s transient population and deprivation may now be redundant as the Government’s proposed new national funding formula reduced the impact of these considerations.

 

·                     The officer confirmed that the bulge classes would be for one year only.

 

The Chair thanked the officers for their attendance and responses.

 

RESOLVED:  That the report be noted.

Supporting documents: