Further to Minute 81 (22 January 2019), the Cabinet Member for Educational Attainment and School Improvement presented a report on the Review of School Places and Capital Investment.
The Cabinet Member referred specifically to the pupil numbers and capacity for September 2019 and the anticipation that there would be a surplus of places in reception year, above the standard operating spare capacity, which was down to the fall in birth numbers in 2014/15. However, the position in Barking around the Abbey, Eastbury and Gascoigne wards continued to cause concern, particularly for primary school provision, due to the planned development of new homes.
The Cabinet Member also referred to tracked information showing a progressive rise in children with SEND in the Borough and a review which had been undertaken on the current forecasting model to make it more sophisticated. The outcomes from the review underpinned the need for a school to support pupils with social emotional, mental health (SEMH) difficulties. This provision was initiated last September 2018 with the intention to build a new SEMH school for up to 90 pupils on a new site in Dagenham by the start of the 2022 academic year. The second aspect revealed by the review was the need for a further provision to support up to 160 pupils with severe learning difficulties and autism, over the next five years. Currently, officers in the Council were working with the DfE to identify suitable sites in the Borough as a matter of urgency.
Cabinet Members spoke in support of the report and queried whether there were plans for highway improvements around schools. It was noted that the Cabinet Member for Enforcement and Community Safety was in the process of developing a Parking Strategy around schools which would include wider aims of promoting walking to school and road safety and reducing air pollution around schools.
Cabinet resolved to:
(i) Approve the Strategy for Ensuring Sufficient School Places and School Modernisation to 2027, and the Future Planning Programme to meet Basic Need (including SEN places) 2019 to 2027 (revised June 2019) as set out in section 8.3 and Appendices 1 and 2 of the report;
(ii) Note the urgent work being undertaken by officers regarding additional primary school provision in the Abbey, Eastbury and Gascoigne areas of the Borough as referred to in paragraph 2.4 of the report;
(iii) Note the work being undertaken by officers in relation to provision of school places for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities as detailed in paragraph 2.7 of the report, including discussions with the Department for Education regarding suitable sites for a new school to support pupils with severe learning difficulties and autism;
(iv) Approve the inclusion in the Capital Programme of the DfE grant allocations for 2019/20 as detailed in section 3 of the report;
(v) Note the delay by the Department for Education in announcing Basic Need funding allocations for 2021/22 to support the development of new school places as set out in section 4 of the report;
(vi) Approve the various projects and associated changes to the Capital Programme as set out in Section 6 and summarised in Section 7 of the report;
(vii) Delegate authority to the Director of People and Resilience, as advised by the Procurement Board, to consider and approve the final procurement strategies for each project; and
(viii) Delegate authority to the Director of People and Resilience, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Education Attainment and School Improvement, the Chief Operating Officer and the Director of Law and Governance, to conduct the procurements and award the respective project contracts.