732,366, Estelle Morris, school standards minister, has announced.
Ms Morris said:
'Surplus school places are expensive and a drain on local authority
£197m. This is an unacceptable waste of valuable resources and why
the reduction in surplus places is to be welcomed.
'The supply and demand for school places must be brought more closely
together in order to maximise parental preference and ensure good
quality education in the most cost effective manner. We recognise
that small surpluses can support parental choice and that reducing
surplus places in rural primaries is not always feasible; however
large surpluses, particularly in schools that are performing badly,
Since 1994 the DfEE has carried out an annual survey of surplus
school places to monitor the levels of surplus throughout the
country, and what action local education authorities are taking to
remove it. In 1998, for the first time, local authorities were
encouraged to focus initially on schools with 25% or more of their
places empty - particularly where they were performing badly. This
was in line with the Audit Commission's report 'Trading Places'.
'The government intends to contact LEAs, with at least 20% of schools
in the target category of 25% or more surplus places, where there is
no indication of action to reduce surplus and no substantial reasons
given. Most local authorities recognise the need for action and
accept that schools with high levels of surplus do not represent the
most effective use of their resources. The government expects the
figure for the number of unjustifiable surplus places to continue to
fall in the future.'
1. Ms Morris answered a written parliamentary question on the numbers and percentages of surplus places in each local education authority and the policy on surplus places in schools.
2. When planning school provision, local education authorities
should consider the options for removing surplus places, initially
focusing on those schools with a quarter or more of their places
unfilled and with particular regard to standards at those schools.
The aim should be to bring the supply and demand for school places
more closely together, maximise parental preference and provide
good quality education in the most cost effective way. The DfEE
recognises that authorities will want to take into account any
special circumstances, for example the geography of rural schools
and social make-up.
3. The tables set out the numbers of surplus places as at January
1999 for each local authority area, listing primary and secondary
separately, together with the proportion that these represent of
total capacity. They also include the numbers of schools which at
that date had surplus of 25% or more, and at least 30 surplus
places, together with the proportion that these represent of the
total number of schools. The data are drawn from the returns made
during 1999 by local education authorities in respect of all
maintained primary and secondary schools in their area. Included
for the first time are a number of former grant-maintained schools
for which data were not previously available. The returns indicate
that there were 732,366 surplus school places in January 1999,
representing 9% of the total capacity of 7.8 million places. This
is an overall reduction of just over 29,305 places on 1998
figures. The number of schools with surplus of 25% or more, and at
least 30 surplus places, also fell by 138 to 2,391 which
represents 11% of the total number of schools. The tables are available from LGCnet. Tel 0171 833 7324/5.