Agenda item

Pupil Place Plan 2015-2019


The Strategic Lead for the Operations, Resources and Libraries Unit introduced the report which outlined the latest draft version of the Pupil Place Plan (2015-2019) and detailed the forecast of pupil place requirements and the creation of a Schools Forum Pupil Place Planning Sub Group. In introducing the report the following points were highlighted:


·         That there was a high demand in Thurrock for in-year pupil places.

·         In 2013/14 146 children had moved into Thurrock from overseas and 366 had moved into Thurrock from elsewhere in the UK.

·         In the five months from September 2014 to January 2015 this target had been exceeded with 199 children coming to Thurrock from overseas and 493 from within the UK, which had created demand in-year for an additional 692 places.

·         It was reported that this additional demand had eaten into the surplus of places Thurrock did have but that Thurrock had a contingency target of 7%, although only 2% of additional places were funded by government.


Councillor Ojetola welcomed the involvement of the service at meetings of the Planning Committee which assisted Planning Committee Members take into account educational issues, and questioned officers and received responses as follows:


·         That he had hoped to see the Admissions Report which would be relevant to examine in conjunction with the Pupil Place Planning report.


The Director of Children’s Services highlighted that the Committee had agreed at the previous meeting that a briefing note would be circulated on Admissions instead of a formal report due to the volume of business to be transacted at the last meeting of the municipal year.


·         Whether the delay of the opening of the Harris Academy Free School in Chafford Hundred had been factored into the Pupil Place Plan and how the service would plan for further demand on in-year pupil places.


The Strategic Lead for the Operations, Resources and Libraries Unit explained that the recent news that the opening of the Harris Academy Free School would be delayed had not been factored into the draft Pupil Place Plan but that it would be included in the finalised document.


The Committee were further advised that the local authority were required to build in between 5-10% of surplus places into the plan and that Thurrock provided 7% of surplus places which was well within the recommended guidelines, despite the fact that funding was only provided for 2%.


Councillor Kerin observed that every local authority was obliged to provide sufficient school places and was concerned that if plans for the new Harris Academy Free School had completely fallen through then Thurrock Council would have been required to resolve the issues that this created.


The Director of Children’s Services advised that there was sufficient provision without the Harris Academy Free School, and that if this had not been the case plans would have been developed as an alternative back-up option. The Committee were advised that the service had been informed of the delay of the opening of the Harris Academy Free School two days prior to admissions letters being sent to parents and that although the whole admissions process could not be rerun at this late stage, suitable places had been identified for all children affected.


Councillor Kerin asked whether there was a point when officers would be concerned regarding a lack of uptake at a school, and highlighted that out of 120 places available at Harris Academy Free School there were only 90 applicants.


The Committee were informed that generally when a new school opened up it was often under subscribed until it became more established, and that in the case of the three form entry Harris Academy Free School it would be opened gradually, with the full 120 school places available from September 2016.


Councillor Kerin questioned whether further schools needed to be opened in other parts of the Borough, to which officers explained that there was demand on school places across the authority but that school expansions were the most appropriate way to meet this demand. Members were further advised that due to the housing development in Purfleet a new school would be required to serve that area.


Councillor Curtis observed that often residents in South Ockendon were not successful in securing their first choice school and was concerned that this would worsen with the new housing development on the old ford factory site. He advised that this was particularly problematic for parents when they were offered places for siblings at different schools.


Officers explained that the new housing development in South Ockendon had been taken into account and included in the forecasts. Members were advised that an additional 210 places had been created at Bonnygate Primary School through the expansion scheme, but that the latest Pupil Place Plan identified that more work needed to be undertaken in that area. Officers recognised that there was demand to place siblings in the same school and that the service worked to achieve this wherever possible.


The Committee were advised that places were ready for the September intake and that some schools would be working with temporary accommodation in addition to the permanent expansion of two schools.


Members were informed that it was difficult to permanently expand schools with one year funds but that the team worked hard to plan long-term and secure capital investment.


Members welcomed the clustering of schools and were advised that if a child did not receive their first preference of a school place other schools in that cluster would be examined, although applications could cut across cluster groups.


Rev Barlow highlighted that the greatest demand on school places was in the Chafford Hundred and Grays area rather than to the East of the Borough, and felt that this could be exacerbated by future developments in and around Grays. Officers assured Members that with the expansion schemes and new school there was no danger that there would not be sufficient school places in Grays, however this was always examined in the consideration of planning developments and developers could be required to build a new school under the Section 106 agreement.


Councillor Morris-Cook felt that it was important the use of temporary accommodation was avoided wherever possible and questioned whether there was enough special education provision to meet demand. In response the Committee were advised that officers were looking to create additional places at Treetops School but that there was less pressure on Beacon Hill.


The Director of Children’s Services advised that the service was looking to undertake a review of Specialist Educational Needs places across the Borough and that there was specific demand in relation to autism.




1.         That the Overview and Scrutiny Committee comments on the draft forecasts, the proposed amendments to Planning Areas and the introduction of the Schools Forum Pupil Place Planning Sub Group be noted.


2.         The Chair thanked the Director of Children’s Services, her team and Democratic Services for all their help over the past municipal year.

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