October 7, 2008
Council Has Got Its Figures Wrong With School Places Need
Stoke-on-trent's schools are about to enter what the council promises to be a transformation that will provide our children with centres of educational excellence fit for the 21st century.
However, in the council's eagerness to close schools, create academies and get its hands on the pounds230 million investment, it has somehow managed to miss one important fact.
The 1996 Education Act, Section 14, states that "the schools available for an area shall not be regarded as sufficient... unless they are sufficient in number, character and equipment to provide for all pupils the opportunity of appropriate education".
The word the council seems to have missed is "all". The council has a legal requirement to provide every child with a free, full- time primary and secondary school place.
This seems fairly fundamental to any school reorganisation. If a city is planning to create attractive new schools that raise educational standards, won't parents be keen to send their children to those schools? This, I assume, is the council's goal. Why then is the council taking it upon itself to limit the number of secondary school places to 13,000 when they are aware that the number of under- fives in the city is in excess of 15,700? In five, 10 or 15 years, won't these children be in the city any more? Won't the city still have the obligation to provide a secondary school place for them?
By 2018, all the children currently under the age of five will be in high school. By that same year, the council is actually predicting only 12,200 pupils will be taught in secondary schools. The city has a surplus of secondary school places, not because of a lack of pupils but because for too long the council has not addressed the educational needs of this city. What's the council's solution to this problem? Improve the schools? No, the council's solution is to ignore the legislation and reduce the number of pupil places. The council's plans are legally questionable and morally reprehensible.
Education's motto is "every child matters". Perhaps Stoke-on- Trent's should be "three out of four children matter".
What will be the cost if the council has to restart its proposals because it has made such a fundamental error in its plans? What will be the cost if it doesn't?
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