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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee [Lifelong Learning]: 15th October 2012

 

Report of the Chief Learning and Skills Officer

 

Pupil Numbers at all Vale Schools

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To advise Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) of the position in respect of pupil numbers at Vale schools as at September 2012.

Recommendation

1.             That Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) consider the Vale's position with regard to pupil numbers at schools.

Reason for the Recommendation

1.             To update Members on the position in terms of pupil numbers at Vale schools.

Background

2.             Education and improving school standards is a central priority of the Welsh Government and is a central element of the programme for Government.

3.             One of the statutory functions of a local authority is to ensure it has sufficient places for all pupils to ensure that there are the right number of schools of the right type and size and in the right locations to meet the needs of the pupil population.

4.             It is not reasonable to expect an exact match between pupil numbers and school places. A certain level of surplus places is necessary in order to deal with fluctuations in population and demand parental preference including for particular provision such as Welsh medium education.

5.             The Council has regard to the Estyn report "How do surplus places affect the resources available for expenditure on improving outcomes for pupils?". The report asserts that reductions in surplus places result in better resource management and impact on school improvement and that Local Authorities should retain no more than 10% surplus places across primary and secondary schools.

6.             Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills, issued a statement to Cabinet Education Ministers across Wales highlighting the central priority of the current Welsh Government of improving school standards. The central theme of the Minister's statement is the reduction of surplus places that represents a drain on resources.

Relevant Issues and Options

7.             The pupil data sets for Vale schools at September 2012 are attached at Appendix A together with number on roll details since 1998. The data sets are considered in the cluster areas of Barry, Penarth, the Rural Vale (Cowbridge and Llantwit Major) and Welsh Medium.

8.             The Authority has seen a general decline in primary pupil numbers over the fifteen year period but since 2011 numbers have increased with the expectation that this trend will continue in future. Secondary pupil numbers have seen an increase over the period up until 2010 mainly as a result of larger primary feeder cohorts already in the system since 2002/03 but from 2011 numbers are expected to decline as smaller feeder primary cohorts feed through the system. The secondary sector is projected to see numbers increase again from 2017 onwards as a result of larger primary feeder primary cohorts feeding through at this point as a result of increased numbers in the primary sector entering reception from 2010 onwards.

9.             In terms of surplus places, data sets are attached at Appendix B. At September 2012 there is a surplus of 13.94% in the primary sector and 8% in the secondary sector and an overall surplus of 10.97%.

10.        At the January 2011 PLASC school census date the Vale was ranked 8th out of the 22 local authorities in terms of primary school surplus places, 2nd in respect of secondary school surplus places and 3rd in terms of overall surplus places, a  ranking of 1 representing the best performing authority and 22 the lowest performing. The data sets for the 2012 PLASC census date will not be available until the end of the Autumn Term 2012. The Authority's position in terms of primary surplus places has declined over the past three years from a ranking of 5th in 2009 but at secondary level the Authority's position has improved to a ranking of 2nd. In terms of the Council's overall position with regard to surplus places the position has remained the same with a ranking of 3rd as per the 2009 data set.

11.        A level of surplus capacity is required within the education system to allow for children moving within an area to be accommodated in their local school but the Welsh Government recommends no more than 10% across primary and secondary schools.

12.        The Local Authority is currently reviewing school provision in the Vale by means of the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Schools Surplus Places Project Group that takes account of the need to reduce surplus capacity. The outcome of the review will be reported to Cabinet.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

13.        The Estyn report referred to above estimate the cost of surplus places as £260 per primary place and £510 per secondary place.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

14.        There are no Sustainability and Climate Change implications arising from this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

15.        The Council will be in breach of its statutory obligations under the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 if parental preference regarding choice of Welsh medium education cannot be provided.

Crime and Disorder Implications

16.        There are no crime and disorder implications arising from this matter.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

17.        There are no equal opportunities implications arising from this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

18.        This report is presented to update Members and assist with future decision making.

Policy Framework and Budget

19.        This is a matter for Executive decision by Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

20.        Ward Member consultation has not been carried out as this is a Vale wide matter

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

21.        Lifelong Learning.

Background Papers

None.

 

Contact Officer

Mark Haynes, School Organisation and Access Manager

 

Officers Consulted

Paula Ham, Head of Strategic Planning and Performance

Mike Matthews, Principal Strategic Planning Officer

 

Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill, Chief Learning and Skills Officer