Wednesday 14 March 2018

Figures reveal decline in demand for Reception school places in Brent

An FoI request regarding school rolls in Brent following the January 'in Year' census has revealed a considerable number of unfilled Reception class places in the borough as well as unfilled places scattered across the primary school years.  Some of the vacancies are at schools that were expanded as a result of the high primary demand of recent years. Demographic factors such as EU citizens going home post-Brexit and families being housed outside of London as a result of the Benefit Cap may have affected the numbers.

In the late 70s primary schools suffered from what was called 'falling rolls' as the population of children reduced.  This resulted in the closure of some schools and amalgamation of others. In what was then the Inner London Education Authority teachers were compulsorily redeployed to schools needing teachers.

We are not at that point yet but some schools might eventually reduce their forms of entry - the number of classes they take in at Reception and then in each year group throughout the school. Each form of entry is 30 pupils, so when interpreting the figures for the number of vacancies in each school the number of forms of entry needs to be taken into account. 10 vacancies in a five form entry school is much less serious that 10 vacancies in a one form entry school.

School funding is for the most part based on the number of pupils, so schools suffering from a large number of vacancies will incur a financial loss. Budgeting becomes more difficult when the reduction in numbers is less than a whole class, so the school cannot reduce the number of teachers but has less money to spend on them and teaching assistants.  I understand that some schools which have expanded may have negotiated a 'cushion; with the local authority so they are funded for a full teacher's salary even if the class has vacancies. Unfilled vacancies reduce the number of pupil in each class in a cohort so there is some educational advantage but at a time of education cuts these are undermined by the financial impact.

The core funding per primary pupil (before sums for deprivation, EAL and other factors are added) is about £3,400.

In the table below, based on the FoI response LINK,  I have included vacancies throughout the school as well as Reception vacancies. I have listed only those schools with significant vacancies. St Mary's RC Primary at only 2 forms of entry is the one with one of the highest percentage vacancies.

Kilburn Grange Free School is not funded by the local authority but instead directly funded by the DfE. As a new school it only has children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2. It has only filled the equivalent of 4 out of 6 classes.

The figures do raise the issue of whether the planned Ark Primary free school on the carpark of York House in Wembley is needed at its planned 3 forms of entry (90 children a year) when the recently expanded Elsley Primary School (it doubled in size) has 48 vacancies, although it will be argued the places are needed for the new Quintain developments.

School Name Forms of entry Vacancies (unfilled places Reception) Waiting List Total vacancies whole school
Brentfield 3 20 0 44
Bryon Court 5 44 0 69
Carlton Vale Infants 2 22 0 66
Christchurch CofE 1 8 0 21
East Lane Primary 3 0 0 156
Elsley Primary School 4 48 0 71
Harlesden Primary School 3 38 0 112
Kilburn Grange Free School 2 13 0 62
Lyon Park Primary 4 8 2 20
Newfield Primary 2 17 1 48
Preston Park Primary 3 12 1 45
Roe Green Strathcona School 1 23 1 75
St Andrew & St Francis CofE 2 9 0 18
St Mary's CofE Primary 2 7 1 48
St Mary's RC Primary School 2 25 0 150
The Stonebridge Primary 3 57 0 85
Uxendon Primary School 3 16 2 53
Total vacancies


Scott said...

A class size of 30 reducing by 10 sounds positive as it brings it slap bang in line with Green Policy - of no more than 20 children in a form. Some of these schools are too big (particularly Byron with its expansion) and if they suffer financially as a result of their ill thought through plans to pack children in like they're running a meat factory - let that serve as a warning to other schools.

Martin Francis said...

I absolutely agree on the advantages of small classes and saw these during the falling rolls period teaching in Paddington in the 70s - and also see with the private schools who come on trips to Fryent Country Park with Brent School Without Walls. However,m with budgets already cut in real terms 10 fewer pupils means a loss of at least £34,000 per class. Although there will some savings on materials such as exercise books and other equipment the cost of a teacher and teaching assistant, heating etc remains constant whether it is 30 or 20 pupils. A policy of 20 children per class would need an increase in school budgets.

Anonymous said...

Schools now operate in a free market. As mentioned, given school's receive income 'per pupil' many set their budgets assuming full capacity. A good teacher costs the same whether they're teaching 20 children or 30.

What gives first is the Assistant. So a class of 30 would have a teacher and a TA. With five vacancies, the TA is dropped, or shared because the budget doesn't stretch.

Result? Good teachers get stretched and burn out. Poor teachers - and there are plenty of them - do not get the support they need to properly educate. Results dip. Families go elsewhere. And so it continues....

Jaine Lunn said...

"Education is compulsory, School is not" quote from Education I suggest everyone have a read of their website.