Do you agree that a £5m investment in the expansion of a school should be based on a high level of confidence of long term local demand for school places rather than a single year’s data?
Thank you Mr Nader for your question tonight and for your helpful questions and e-mails throughout this process and your other questions.
Our primary school strategy, including the investment decisions, is based on the knowledge that demand has risen across the Borough for much of the last decade.
Using Earley, as an example, the need for school places has risen over a number of years, not just over a single year, so when making long term decisions about any sum of investment of course we need to weigh up factors that support a recommendation and endorse a proposal being a sound investment.
Additional capacity both at Hawkedon and at Loddon primary schools has been created to meet this need so Hawkedon was 20 places and Loddon was 30.
However, even with this capacity, which has led to the 50 additional Reception class places in Earley all of the available Reception places were allocated in 2016; leaving no capacity for families moving into the area.
This year demand has not increased and this allows the Council the opportunity to pause and review options and future need in the Earley area.
The current primary places strategy is based on analysis carried out in 2015. Since then the central Government’s policy on immigration has changed, economic forecasts have changed, and house sales in the Aldryngton and Loddon catchments have dropped by nearly 60% in volume terms. The forecast estimates whilst showing the correct trend of a spike in demand, but then reducing again from 2017 onwards for the last two years, has overestimated demand.
Do you agree that any decision on the school expansion in the future should be based on a revised forecast that takes into account the latest data and where the decision concerns Aldryngton that it should include some detailed analysis of the school’s catchment?
Of course any decision in the next year or two years will take into consideration any new and relevant data. I couldn’t bring back a decision to the Executive recommending anything other than the use of new and up to date data. But what I think is interesting this year has been the fact that first preferences for Loddon have gone up 25% so that the 30 places that have been created there have obviously been used and the first preferences for Aldryngton have gone down by 22%. So overall in the whole of Earley, in the designated area which covers seven schools (so a lot of schools) there were only 13 less numbers applying in the normal application round so that is just under 3%. So it is not a significant swing downwards, it is not the 15 places upwards that we had anticipate.d but we have made the preparations in case the 15 extra places were needed at Aldryngton but tonight we have seen that we don’t need them so we are recommending not to expand this year.