Nottinghamshire County Council’s full unedited response to schools’ crisis in Hucknall

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Here are the questions put to Nottinghamshire County Council by the Dispatch about the current schools’ crisis with an unedited response.

Q1. Now the money has been agreed to fund the RR site school, when will work begin on the design and build and when is the plan to have it completed by? A1. The building of the school will commence as soon as the developers release the site to NCC.

The Section 106 agreement has not yet been finalised, but the county council’s preferred option is for the site to be cleared, de-contaminated and fully connected to all services (highways, water, power, drainage) by the developer so that we can start the building project as soon as possible.

In the meantime, the design, planning and procurement of the school will begin as soon as house building commences. A full county council meeting approved the interim funding for the school to enable it to be built as soon as possible, rather than wait for the funds to be released by the developers.

This represents a calculated risk, since there is always the chance that the housing development could be beset by problems. (The original developers of Papplewick Green went into administration, of course.) Nevertheless, the agreement is that the developers will ultimately pay the county council for the full cost of providing the new school.

The school will be built in a phased way so that it provides places as the housing development grows. The developers are ultimately providing the funds with which the school will be built in order to mitigate the impact of the development on local infrastructure. Therefore, there is the expectation that the new school will serve the houses on the Rolls-Royce site. The new school will not fill as soon as it opens, so it is important to ensure it grows with demand in order to avoid over-staffing and over-resourcing the facility during its early life.

Q2. What will the catchment area be for this new school?

A2. When the finalised plans for the site are agreed, the catchment area for the new school will be defined. It is fair to assume, however, that the largest part of the catchment area, if not all of it, will be defined by the area covered by the new housing development. Any changes to catchment areas are proposed after reviewing all other catchment areas that could potentially be affected. Furthermore, proposed changes to catchment areas form part of the statutory annual consultation for admissions that starts in the autumn term each year.

Q3. If this school is deemed necessary now and it remains at 210 places, will it still have places to accommodate the families who move into the new housing development?

A3. There is a tried and tested formula we use to estimate the demand for primary and secondary places arising from a new housing development. A 210-place primary school is the recommended size to service the needs of up to 1,000 houses on a new development, so we expect the new school will be perfectly adequate in the case of the Rolls-Royce site.

Q4. Will there be plans to allow for extending the school if necessary at a later date like at Beardall Fields?

A4. A 210-place primary school requires a total site area of 1.1 hectares and the developer has agreed to release this area of land to us for the new school. Further expansion may be possible but this would entail converting some, or all, of the playing field area to all-weather surfaces. When a developer agrees to make these contributions to mitigate the impact of its development on the local infrastructure, it will always have an eye on the overall viability of its site – any land it provides for a school will reduce the area it has to build houses on.

Q5. The opening numbers for Beardall Fields in September is 315 with 26 places for nursery/reception. Will this be full on opening day in September with new f/t admission starters?

A5. We have increased the first admissions pupil admissions number (PAN) for the new school to 45 for September 2014. This is the number of children being admitted to full-time school for the first time. The school is likely to fill to this number. This increased number will apply to each successive year until it is raised again when the next building phase is complete. The 26 places in the nursery are all controlled by the school itself

Q6. What is the catchment area going to be for Beardall Fields?

A6. The site for the new development formed part of the Leen Mills Primary School catchment. Leen Mills had an additional classroom provided by the developers, who acknowledged that there would be a significant delay between the first houses being occupied and the new school being made available. (NCC has subsequently built a further classroom at Leen Mills.)

The catchment areas of both Leen Mills and Beardall Street have been the subject of extensive consultation recently and the outcome of this is that the area covered by the new housing is now in the catchment areas of both Leen Mills Primary and Beardall Fields Primary.

These changes were also part of the statutory annual consultation on admission arrangements for community and voluntary controlled schools carried out in the autumn term 2013.

Families applying for a place who live in the joint catchment area will be in catchment for both schools namely, Beardall Fields and Leen Mills. This means that they will have high priority within the oversubscription criteria.  (The joint catchment area is that which was previously Leen Mills only and lies to the south of the middle of Papplewick Lane.  The joint catchment is essentially the new housing development and the development side of the roads bordering it.)

Phase2 of Beardall Fields will increase the capacity to 420 - an increase of just 100 pupils and isn’t expected until “a few years” and is “dependent on the housing market”.

Q7. Are there any plans to bring forward the extension in light of the recent pressure on places?

A7. Beardall Fields Primary School has been planned for several years. The site being used for the new school is largely that which used to be the old Beardall Street Primary School’s detached playing field. The plan was to build a new school which would both replace the old school and provide sufficient accommodation for the children expected to be generated by the Papplewick Green development.

Funding for the new school was agreed some years ago and consists of county council funding and developer contributions. Developer contributions are usually made available on a phased basis, depending on the rate at which houses are built. The building of the new school has been delayed as a result of the original developer being placed in administration and subsequent plans for the development, including that of the new school, being postponed due to two village green applications being made to prevent any building taking place on the site.

The second phase of the school building will take place when the next set of triggers are reached which will release the final pot of developer contributions.

Q8. Will this extension be enough to accommodate the 800 homes earmarked for Papplewick Green once complete?

A8. As explained above, the new school is a replacement for the old Beardall Street School (which was a 210-place primary) with additional places to accommodate the children from the new development. An 800 house development is likely to generate around 160 primary age children, so the new school will have capacity to accommodate more children from the wider Hucknall area.

The new Beardall Fields Primary will become a 420-place primary school after the second phase of the build, which is dependent upon the release of the final funding from the developers. We would anticipate this happening during 2016 but as the funding depends upon the build rate of the new houses, this date may change.

Q9. The amalgamation of Annie Holgate infants and nursery - it states it will be 420 place school. Can you tell me how many places the current infant and junior school has?

A9. The current Annie Holgate schools have a capacity of 420 between them. The advantage of creating a single primary school of 420 places on the site is that it will be easier and more cost-effective to plan and build further extensions should they be needed on this site.

Q10. Also where will this be built and when will work begin/be completed?

A10. The new school is being provided under the Government’s Priority School Building Programme – one of several successful bids submitted by NCC. The design and building of the new school is being managed by the Education Funding Agency, on behalf of the Department for Education, so timescales and other details are outside the control of the county council.

However, it would be reasonable to expect the new school to be available some time in 2016.

Q11. Is the Priority Schools Building Programme similar to the old PFI initiative?

A11. The PSBP scheme is seeking to refurbish or rebuild those schools whose buildings are in poor condition. How the scheme is financed is a government decision.

Q12. According to your figures (census), the number of four year olds in Hucknall has doubled in 12 years and this is without the huge developments planned for the future. This number is not likely to level out for quite some time. Many schools are not in a position to expand/extend as other facilities/land don’t allow it.

Is the CC confident that these measures will solve the issue that has been talked of and anticipated for several years?

A12. The number of four-year-olds in schools rose significantly from the time when admission into primary education became available from the age of 4 onwards.

Further increases over the last three or four years are the direct result of an increase in birth rate - a trend which has been observed in all areas across the UK.

The county council uses a comprehensive system for projecting future demand for school places across the county, within local areas and at each school.

The projections system depends upon a number of core pieces of information, including the actual number of children of all ages in any one area and recent trends identified by analysing demand for places over the last three years.

However, parental preferences for individual schools can change very quickly, which makes the job of providing additional accommodation in a timely fashion very difficult.

Indeed, there are many schools that simply cannot be physically expanded beyond their current capacity, due to site constraints.

The county council is making use of the very best technology and analysis to identify where additional places will be required in the coming years.

Q13. What help/practical solutions can be offered for those parents affected by the issue of places in the short-term?

Parents should apply on time, use all 4 preferences and ensure that at least one of the preferences is for a school where they are sure their child will meet one of the higher criteria for admission.  

When applying, parents should provide all relevant information which could make a significant difference when their application is considered such as information about looked-after or previously looked-after children and siblings attending the school.

If parents think the school is the only school that can meet their child’s particular needs, they should refer to the information available in the Admissions to schools: guide for parents. This also explains how places were allocated in the previous year. 

Any parent who has been refused a school place for their child is offered the right to independent appeal. The outcome of the appeal is binding.

Also, children are placed on a waiting list for any schools where they have been refused. Waiting lists are held in admission oversubscription criteria order and no reference is made to the date of application. Being on a waiting list does not guarantee that a place will eventually become available.

Q14. Is the CC looking at changing the admission criteria to put a higher priority on admission for children with siblings already in school?

A14. Nottinghamshire County Council’s standard admission oversubscription criteria for community and voluntary controlled schools already give high priority to children living in the catchment area with siblings attending the school (criterion 2). Children who live outside the catchment area with siblings are considered at criterion 4. In the Hucknall area, there are three ‘own admission’ authority schools that are responsible for setting their own admission oversubscription criteria.

Q15. What date/time/place will the meeting for parents take place?

Parents from schools in the Hucknall area are invited to meet with senior education representatives from Nottinghamshire County Council to find out more about the admissions process for primary schools and its plans to ensure there are sufficient school places in the area in the future. Meetings will be held at on Monday 14 July at 5pm and Tuesday 15 July at 7pm at The Grove,

Hucknall United Reformed Church Community Centre, Farleys Grove, Hucknall, NG15 6FG. Parents will also be informed about details of meetings through schools in the area.