This report outlines London Councils’ analysis of the current and predicted shortfall of places across London over the next five years and sets out the policy context for local authorities in delivering sufficient places to meet this demand.
Demand for mainstream provision
Demand for school places in London has risen significantly over the past decade, at a faster rate than in any other region of the country. While London has experienced a high demand for primary school places for a number of years, this demand is now shifting to secondary level as pupils reach secondary school age. Current projections highlight a shortfall of 45,355 places across primary and secondary schools in London until 2022/23, with the majority as secondary level.
Meeting demand through free schools and expansion
While there is a significant shortfall in places at secondary level, local authorities have plans in place to meet this demand. Fifty five per cent of places required in London over the next five years are considered secure. Two thirds of the new places that are currently being planned are expected to be met by free schools.
The most recent wave of free schools announced by the Department for Education (DfE), Wave 13, targets applications for free schools in areas of the country where there are low performing schools and, in some cases, no demand for school places. This precludes London boroughs, which are high performing, from applying for new free schools to meet their upcoming demand at secondary level. Therefore London boroughs are keen to work with central government on the criteria for future free school waves, to ensure they address issues such as demand as well.
Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and Alternative Provision (AP)
While the shortfall for mainstream school places across London has reduced, the demand for places for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) is increasing dramatically. The number of pupils with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), requiring specialist provision to meet their needs, has risen by 29 per cent since 2010 in London, and the complexity of these needs is increasing. Local authorities are committed to providing high quality school places for children with SEND. These places cost an average £67,043 per place, which is around three times as much as a mainstream school place.
A London Councils’ survey revealed that all but one London borough had a shortfall in their high needs budgets in 2017/18, amounting to a £78 million shortfall across the capital. Furthermore, local authorities overspent on transport for children with SEND by on average £1 million per borough in 2017/18. One of the key ways in which London boroughs are planning on reducing this shortfall is through creating more high quality local provision. This will reduce the revenue spent on expensive independent and out-of-borough provision, and will also lead to savings in SEN transport budgets by reducing students’ travel times. This is in line with the DfE’s own approach, which involves investing to support local authorities to build more local provision. The Department has provided a welcome £265 million SEND capital fund for all local authorities until 2020/21, and is in the process of running its second special free schools wave.
Further Education (FE)
The demand for secondary school places will reach further education in a few years, as all 16 year olds must remain in education or training until the age of 18. Recent and upcoming developments such as the introduction of T levels, the increase of young people above the age of 16 with an EHCP, and changes to GCSE and A Level examinations, will affect where students decide to study and, thus, where demand is likely to be greatest in the future. Local government is committed to remaining responsive to these developments.
- London has seen the largest increase in total pupil numbers of any region. Total pupil numbers increased by 13 per cent across London between 2010/11 and 2017/18, compared with
- 8 per cent nationally.
- 45,335 new school places will be required in London over the next five years, with three quarters of these at secondary level.
- Basic Need allocations from central government have only met 70 per cent of the costs incurred by councils in creating new school places between 2010/11 and 2022/23.
- 55 per cent of new forms of entry that will be required over the next five years in London are secured
- 55 per cent of demand for places over the next five years is expected to be met by free schools.
- 84 per cent of local authorities highlighted that identifying appropriate sites is a key challenge in delivering new free schools.
- The number of pupils with Education, Health and Care Plans has risen by 29 per cent since 2010, which is double the increase in the general pupil population in this time period.
- The average cost of creating a dedicated school place for a pupil with SEND is £67,043, which is around three times the cost of creating a mainstream place.
- 32 out of 33 boroughs collectively spent £78 million more on high needs than received from central government.