General questions about class sizes, oversubscriptions and (lack of) planning by local authorities and government(6 Posts)
Hi all, I can't get my head around how some aspects of the education system work in England.
I understand we lack a clear and structured population register, of the kind which seem to be common in continental Europe. Do the Department of Education and local authorities have at least some estimate of the number of children likely to reach primary and secondary school age? I say "likely" because families can always move around. For example, do they use data from, I don't know, GP registrations to estimate the population of school children?
Also, what happens when there are not enough places for all the children starting school in a given year? Let's say that in a local authority there are 100 children who'll start primary school; maybe 10 will go to private (as in, non-state) schools, move elsewhere, etc, and 90 need to attend state schools. If the state schools in the local authority only has room for 70, what exactly happens? Surely they cannot create a new school from scratch overnight. Do they increase the class sizes of the existing schools? With what criteria? Etc.
Our child will not start school before a few years, so this is just a generic question, but any help on shedding some light on how the system works would be appreciated!
The Office of National Statistics produces population projections which will allow LAs to estimate the number of children likely to reach primary school age. The DfE also produces national pupil projections based on ONS data and other sources predicting the numbers of children in each age group in coming years.
The number of children likely to reach secondary school is easier to determine. LAs know how many children they have in primary schools in each year so they know how many children in state primary schools are coming up to secondary school age. That won't tell them exactly how many applications they will receive but it is usually a pretty good approximation.
If there are not enough places the LA cannot increase the class sizes of existing schools. It is up to the governors to determine class sizes, not the LA, and increasing class sizes in Reception in most primary schools will result in that school breaching the infant class size limit, either immediately or in future years. If there is a shortage of places the LA will attempt to persuade schools to open bulge classes, i.e. additional Reception classes allowing them to admit more children. They may also investigate the possibility of sending some children to a neighbouring LA if there are spaces available just over the border, but that will not be the LA's preferred option.
The other issue in this debate is that previously the LA had far more power to open a new school etc than it does now. Now all new schools have to be "free" schools which are not in any way LA controlled. They are also frequently not in the place that the LA believes is where there need to be more school places made available.
If a significant new estate is being built, like the 2000 home estate near us, then the LA will have a good idea how many pupils may be in the houses when they are built and can insist on the developer paying for (section 105 money I believe it is called) a school. The trouble is if the houses on the estate are all 4 bedroomed houses then there is likely to be far more secondary school age pupils in the houses than there are primary school pupils and conversely the more "affordable" housing there is, the more likelyhood for primary school age pupils to be in those houses.
Thank you, that's interesting. Does the council have total discretion in where (as in, in which schools) to create bulge classes? Can it create them in any state school (including religious, academies, etc) or only in some kind of schools?
Do schools apply pressure? E.g. do schools tend to want bulge classes, because it means extra funding, or do they tend not to want them because they incur more expenses with the same budget?
The council is the admission authority for community schools and voluntary controlled schools. This gives them the ability to admit beyond PAN (Published Admission Number) without the consent of the governors, effectively forcing the school to create a bulge class, although the council will try to reach agreement with the governors first. Other types of school (academies, free schools, voluntary aided schools and foundation schools) are their own admission authority. The council cannot force these schools to open bulge classes. All they can do is try to persuade the governors to accept one.
A bulge class brings extra funding but it also brings additional expense. Depending on the number of children being admitted the additional funding may not be enough to cover the additional expense. It normally means temporary buildings have to be erected on the school's land. In general schools don't want bulge classes. If they wanted and had the space for additional pupils they would increase PAN.
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