Bern Timings, Education Capital, Sufficiency and Admissions Lead Commissioner presented the report to the Committee which includes the process and planning of school places within the county. The Committee noted that significant housing development across Warwickshire is leading to an increase in demand for school places. Members noted that transparency in the process was a key part of the strategy and in particular when working with schools and members. It was noted that working with academies, who control their own admissions and pupil numbers was also part of the strategy.
Councillor Margaret Bell noted that the process is extremely complex and asked how many temporary classrooms were in use across Warwickshire. The Council seem able to deal with bulge classes well, but when there is an additional class in primary schools, this is not fed through into planning for high school places; ultimately resulting in the council paying for temporary classrooms and an extension. Bern Timings confirmed that capital projects often have unforeseen delays, but the example given by Councillor Bell in relation to extra classes was as a result of a lack of planning ahead. It was agreed by officers and Members that capital forward planning must be right from the start. Councillor Bell suggested that moving forward the Committee monitor the use of temporary classrooms and the costs involved.
In relation to parental preference; the Committee noted that this can be difficult, when parents request places at schools that are not local/nearest to them. Part of the work currently underway is to ensure that existing schools remain viable. The admissions code makes it clear that if a first choice can’t be met, then a place at the nearest school will be offered; and the Council follow national guidance for this and reviews trends each year.
Nationally, there are issues with mid-year moves; especially in view of the continued increase in new housing developments.
Officers review and revise the forecasting predications each year. The DfE record ‘score cards’ each year and the council is ahead of where we need to be – which is better than being under in terms of places.
The Committee agreed that the discussion and questions highlighted just how complex the process is and thanks officers for the report. It was agreed that the Committee would be regularly kept up to date with the strategy.
That the Children & Young People Overview & Scrutiny Committee comment on the existing processes and methodology used to formulate the Education Sufficiency Strategy and identify areas for further discussion or where value can be added.