The Cabinet Member for Children and Schools, Cllr Jane Edbrooke, introduced the report and noted the stark change in circumstances since the Council had written to government in 2011 expressing concern that Lambeth could not meet its demand for school places. Since then, following considerable effort and investment, all targets had been hit and there was now a surplus of school places in the borough. The area of concern moving forward was the projected demand for secondary places and the annual report provided a snapshot of the situation. Circumstances were complicated by government policy to only allow new Free Schools, of which local authorities had only limited influence. A more developed picture of the overall plan to provide school places would follow next year.
The Director of Education and Learning, Cathy Twist, provided further context and noted the sustained increase of primary school places over the last seven years. There had also been an increase in secondary and special school places in the same time period. The Council expected to meet demand for primary places in the next few years and was working to ensure it could do the same for secondary places. As part of this officers were working with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to develop plans for a new Free School and would also consider bulge classes if necessary.
Cabinet members then made the following comments in relation to the report:
· The content of the Local Plan needed to be factored into pupil place planning and associated capital programmes. Areas such as Norwood had seen a huge growth in the number of families in recent years and a new school site needed to be sought despite unsuccessful efforts in the past.
· Members were pleased to see the second phase of expansion at Telferscot (New Park Road) but stressed the importance that the EFSA working with the Council to ensure the ongoing identity of the school.
· It was surprising that the EFSA had allowed a new Free School in the borough without duly consulting the Council.
Cathy Twist stated that all the proposed plans in the Local Plan had been factored into the projections for school places. A considerable amount of work had also been undertaken in Norwood to account for the population growth and officers took care to ensure all children were found school places within a reasonable distance of their homes.
Cabinet noted the real improvement in this pupil place planning over recent years and thanked officers for their work.
It was RESOLVED:
1) To note the planned primary expansions and planned Published Admission Number (PAN) changes for the period 2018 to 2020.
2) To note the projections of demand for places and the priority for creating additional secondary school places and to agree the approach to planning additional secondary school places.
3) To note the need for an additional secondary school which it is expected will be delivered by the Education and Skills Funding Agency.
4) To agree to the proposed programme of work subject to appropriate statutory consents.
5) To agree priorities for further Secondary expansion projects and £7,000,000 be committed to deliver the initial best value expansion solution.
6) To delegate further decisions on the final capital programme to meet the demand to the Cabinet Member for Children and Schools.