Agenda item

Windsor School Places Falling Rolls

To receive the above reports.


Ben Wright, Education Planning Officer stated the Borough was in a different position compared to recent years, with falling rolls in Windsor after several years of growth. He said it was due in part to lower birth rates and outward migration, particularly in reception year. In 2016 there were 537 children on roll in reception in Windsor and the forecast for 2020/21 is 437. The Borough was trying to achieve a 5% surplus of school places to support parental preference but also wanted to avoid schools becoming economically unviable. The Education Planning Officer explained Windsor had hit a peak for middle schools already so the Borough did not need to worry about Windsor Upper Schools in the short to medium term.


The Education Planning Officer stated the Household Cavalry were to move out of Combermere Barracks in Windsor with the Welsh Guards moving in. he was not able to obtain sufficient information from the Welsh Guards about how many children would be requiring school places. Schools in Windsor would be losing 120 children from the Household Cavalry and the Education Planning Officer was hoping that when the children from the Welsh Guards families arrived, that would even the numbers out again.


Section 4.1 of the report listed potential options to deal with the forecast reduction in numbers. Option A would be to do nothing and option B would be to introduce temporary reductions in PANs.


If the Borough did nothing, and a first school in Windsor lost another 35 children, the school could be financially unviable at relatively short notice. The risk for larger schools is they get cohorts of 32 or 35 and would need to employ an extra teacher due to infant class size legislation requiring one qualified teacher per 30 children; however, the school would need at least 39 children for the funding to be in place for that extra teacher. The Education Planning Officer added it only took a small reduction to take some schools into an unviable situation.


If a temporary reduction in PANs option was employed, there were already consultations ongoing regarding the 2020/21 academic year so, it was too late to change that year group PAN. But, that could go to the School Adjudicator who could change the numbers at a later date. It was very easy to go up in numbers but, more difficult to reduce the PAN.


Windsor Schools had coped with 10% surplus places before but, the figures forecast suggested the surplus could be double that. It was recognised that redundancies might be required if a PAN was reduced for a school, however that was also true in the event of low pupil numbers.


If Schools Forum were to consider using the Falling Rolls fund provision, that is a topslice and would be deducted from delegated budgets so there needed to be agreement about how any PAN reductions were handled. With the schools that were able to.


The Chairman asked how temporary the temporary changes would be. He added there was a lot of new hosing being built and he queries how much of that housing would be affordable. The Education Planning Officer responded the Borough could be looking at a more permanent temporary reduction. He did not know how much of the new housing would be for affordable housing.


The Chairman said Windsor was experiencing an aging population so, housing was not changing hands and some houses were being sold for over £1,000,000; he was concerned that not many families with children could afford those kinds of prices. The Education Planning Officer stated new houses would bring in families but, he was unable to say how many. He had been starting conversations with partners now to see how to best manage it.


Kevin McDaniel, Director of Children’s Services (AfC) said there was an option C which would be schools working more closer together.  There were lots of different ways to change or restructure and the Borough and schools needed to look at different ways that could work.  The Director of Children’s Services stated if two schools wanted to merge and become one, that could take up to six to nine months. Closing a school took more than a year and to build a school had many issues and was the slowest option of all.


The Chairman stated it was an issue schools were facing and if they waited to act, the would likely increase the impact further down the line. If the deficit needed to be clawed back, it would have to be taken out of the DSG budget. The Director of Children’s Services agreed and said it would include cutting back and reductions in staff. Mike Wallace asked if any schools in Windsor had offered to reduce their PAN. The Education Planning Officer said he had written to all Windsor schools and asked them if they would consider reducing their PAN but, he had only received one response which gave their case as to why they should not have their PAN reduced. The Chairman commented that schools recognised the solution had to come from within, but they needed some help getting there. The Director of Children’s Services responded that those at risk needed identify what they might do. Radical ideas were needed and he was happy to provide officer support to evaluate solutions and ideas.


Mike Wallace stated that other work needed to be carried out at the same time as action on PANs as a plan B. The Chairman stated that was true as there was potential long-term impact for every school sin the area, including Middle and Upper schools.


In summary the Education Planning Officer said schools could go down to any PAN they needed. The Chairman responded that conversations were ongoing to see if schools were happy to reduce their PAN. There were smaller schools at significant risk and the burden could fall on the five smallest schools that were not part of a trust or an academy. The Education Planning Officer confirmed the Borough needed to act now for the 2019/20 academic year.


The Chairman said there were a number of schools that were holding on to find out how many children they would have on roll in September 2019.


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