1. A report to provide a briefing and update to the Overview and Scrutiny Performance and Value for Money Select Committee (PVFM) on delivery of additional school places and admissions; and
2. To provide an update on the delivery of additional school places and the work of Education Support Services.
The Committee gave consideration to a report which updated members on the delivery of additional school places and admissions.
The Committee were advised that there had been a reduction in the numbers of Primary aged pupils within Oldham schools. As at the January 2019 census there were 24337 pupils in Oldham schools compared to 24115 in 2021. Within Secondary schools however, the number of pupils on roll continued to rise from 15800 pupils in 2019 to 16711 in 2021.
The service had experienced a downturn in the number of applications for Primary school places and work was ongoing to investigate the reasons and implications for schools. Place pressure within Secondary schools continued however the pressure would be accommodated with places available in each cohort. Three schools within Oldham had places available in all the 5-year groups. The Primary sector had place pressure in years 5 and 6 with year 5 under significant pressure resulting in no year 5 places in Chadderton and East Oldham.
The Committee was informed that allocation of first preference was back on an upwards trend. In 2015 81% or parents were allocated their first preference of secondary school, this dropped to 79% in 2016 to a low of 73% in 2017. First preference places for secondary increased to 75.7% in 2021 and was anticipated to rise once the Brian Clarke Academy opens in September 2022. It was noted that in total for 2021, 89.95 of pupils gains one of their top three preferences of secondary school. Primary school allocations had stayed relatively static between 2015-19 at 90% offered first preference. 2021 had increased to 93.7% with 98.35 of pupils receiving a place at their top three preference primary schools.
Work had been done in recent years to increase the number of places available for pupils at good and outstanding schools. Recent and proposed increases in secondary schools had been agreed at the following schools and academies:
· Oasis Leesbrook -150 additional places from 2021
· The Brian Clarke Academy (Bluecoat 2) – 240 additional places from 2022.
· Saddleworth School Rebuild due to open in February 2022 will offer an additional 20 places per year group.
Approval had recently been granted to develop and build a new primary school in Chadderton (Calderton Primary School) which would provide additional places in the Chadderton area and provide a resource centre for children with SEND. Due to more places becoming available the number of school appeals had significantly reduced from 227 primary and 330 secondary appeals heard for the September 2019/20 intake to 167 primary and 207 secondary appeals for September 2020/21 intake. In contrast to this, the number of late applications had increased for 2021 due to the COVID-19 lockdown and lack of face to face communication parents would receive from nurseries and primaries reminding parents to apply.
Members queried if Brexit was a factor affecting pupil numbers with families returning to their home Countries. It was noted that whilst it was a factor it was mainly COVID-19 restrictions causing families to be stuck abroad.
Members asked for clarification on feeder schools and whether the Council had a say on which schools feed to others. It was noted that the Council only had a say in Voluntary Controlled schools. Academy and Voluntary Aided schools set their own policies however consultations would need to be held if there was a change to their policies. Saddleworth school was the only Voluntary Controlled secondary school in the Borough compared to two thirds of all primary schools. This was due to the Government push for Academy type schools.
RESOLVED that the report be noted.