Essex County Council is responsible for forecasting pupil numbers across the county. It works with Borough Councils to determine which proposed developments will have an impact on which schools. ECC also uses information from local Doctors who provide data on births and families registered in their area. It also gathers data from schools in May each year. School data will cover the number of children on the roll, historical trends for admissions and current plans to alter the school which may have an impact on the number of places available. ECC may revise forecasts to minimise the impact of unusually high or low intakes in previous years, planned expansion or changes in admissions procedures.
ECC uses a formula based on the type, size and number of dwellings, proposed. It also considers whether the school and area :
• Has rising or falling birth rates
• Can accept children because they currently have spare capacity
• Could expand existing buildings to accommodate more children
• May be able to change admissions procedure so that fewer children from ‘out of catchment’ are offered places
The Department for Education and ECC both aim for new primary schools to be two form entry i.e. two classes of each year group. This means a new school would accommodate 420 children between reception and year 6. In exceptional circumstances they may allow one form entry, provided the school has expansion capacity to 2FE in the future.
The ECC document “Guide to Developer Infrastructure Contributions” states that if existing schools don’t have the capacity to accommodate additional pupils, then as many as 700 new homes would be needed to support a new 1FE primary school. Although, many factors will be taken into account when making that decision.
The Department for Education has a preference for 6 or 8 form entry for new
secondary schools as this allows for the broad range of subject teachers required. Secondary
schools tend to have much wider catchment areas and so creating new secondary school
places is a more complex process.
Each January, ECC produces a 5 year forecast for every school in the county. This link takes you to the current document: http://www.essex.gov.uk/Education-Schools/Schools/Delivering-Education-Essex/School-Organisation-Planning/Documents/CommissioningSchoolPlacesinEssex-2016-2021.pdf
Academies or Free Schools, are independent state-funded schools, which receive funding directly from central government, rather than a local authority.
The day-to-day running is with the head teacher or principal, but the school is overseen by individual charitable bodies called academy trusts and may be part of an academy chain. The trusts and chains provide advice, support, expertise and a strategic overview. They control the admissions process and more freedom than other schools to innovate in the way that they teach. Examples of innovation include forest and farm schools.
The government states that academies drive up standards by placing greater powers in the hands of the governing body on issues such as pay, length of the school day and term times.
Academies and Council run schools can both be offered funding to improve their school to accommodate an increase in pupil numbers through the S106 process. Academies have the power to refuse to make improvements, although this is very rare.
ECC provides funding to parents to pay for preschool education for those that qualify. All children over 3 years and some 2 year olds are eligible for preschool places. However, ECC relies on private companies or charitable organisations to provide suitable premises and run the play sessions. The need for additional preschool places for new housing developments will be assessed in a similar way to school pupil numbers. Once the numbers are clear, the planning authority can negotiate S106 funding based on the predicted numbers. The money generated will be paid as grants to preschools to improve facilities.