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SURPLUS SCHOOL PLACES DOWN - MORRIS

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The number of surplus places in schools in 1999 fell by 29,305 to ...
The number of surplus places in schools in 1999 fell by 29,305 to

732,366, Estelle Morris, school standards minister, has announced.

Ms Morris said:

'Surplus school places are expensive and a drain on local authority

resources - the premises-related costs alone are estimated at around

£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,

are unacceptable.'

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.'

Notes

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.

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