Plans drawn up to reduce places at primary schools due to surplus
Deborah Price, local democracy reporter
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Education officials have drawn up plans to reduce the number of places available at five primary schools.
The Leys Primary and Nursery School and Longmeadow Primary in Stevenage, Brookfield Infant School in Cheshunt, Holywell JMI in Watford and Oakmere Primary School in Potters Bar all have surplus places.
On Monday, October 18 councillors agreed to consult on plans to reduce the number of places available for new pupils each year, which is known as the ‘published admission number’ (PAN).
According to the report presented to the meeting of the cabinet, the changes would improve the future financial sustainability of each of the schools, and in every case the proposals were said to have the backing of the school’s governing body.
At Brookfield Infant and Junior School, in Cheshunt, there are plans to reduce the infant intake from 90 to 60 in 2023 – and the junior intake from 90 to 60 in 2026.
The plan is said to reflect lower forecast of demand for places across Turnford and Cheshunt.
It would, says the report to the cabinet, "create a better match of places to expected demand, protecting the financial viability of the schools moving forward".
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However, says the report, the school has agreed to increase to 90 again should demand increase.
At Holywell JMI, in Watford, there are plans to reduce the number of new students admitted from 60 to 30.
And the reduction is said to reflect forecast demand for places at the school, where just 21 reception places were required this September.
Although The Leys Primary School, in Stevenage, can take up to 75 new pupils, it was reported to the cabinet that it had not reached this level for several years. And this September they took just 48 new pupils.
According to the report, the reduction to a PAN of 60 would be ‘beneficial in educational terms’ and ‘seems sensible’ given the forecast demand.
At Oakmere Primary School, in Potters Bar, there are plans to reduce the admissions number from 60 to 30.
This September, the report says just 30 reception places were allocated – and just 12 families expressed a ‘first preference’ for the school.
“The headteacher and governors are supportive of a PAN reduction, which they agree would help manage the financial operation of the school,” says the report.
“Demand for places is forecast to reduce further in Potters Bar and therefore the proposed reduction would not create an issue in terms of sufficiency of places.”
According to the proposals for Longmeadow Primary, in Stevenage, the admission number would reduce from 60 to 30.
It currently has fewer than 30 pupils in each of its classes in Key Stage One.
And the report to the cabinet states: “There are concerns that these low numbers are now impacting on the school’s finances and a PAN reduction is considered a sensible proposition.
“There is a surplus of places forecast in south east Stevenage, so this reduction would not cause concerns in terms of place availability in coming years.”
Following the decision of the cabinet, there will now be a period of consultation.
The outcome of the consultation will be reported back to the cabinet in February (2022). And, if approved, the changes would be implemented in 2023/24.
At the meeting executive member for education, libraries and lifelong learning Cllr Terry Douris said that the proposed reduction in numbers at the schools were supported by the governing bodies
He also said the reductions would allow classes to operate in a ‘more coherent manner’ than if they were to remain at current numbers. That, he said, would allow resources to be “better utilised”.
Executive member for highways and transport Cllr Phil Bibby – who is a governor at The Leys Primary and Nursery School, in Stevenage – said he wanted to thank Cllr Douris for including the proposal to reduce the school’s PAN from 75 to 60.
“We have never got close to 60 and I don’t think we will do in the near future. And being a 2.5 form of entry is financially unsustainable in the current market – so thank you very much it is greatly appreciated. And I am sure it will be agreed locally.”