Falling Pupil Rolls

Education – in the House of Commons at on 29 January 2024.

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Photo of Florence Eshalomi Florence Eshalomi Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

What steps she is taking to support schools with decreasing pupil rolls.

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds Minister of State (Education)

I recognise the challenge from falling rolls when there is demographic change. That is why we are changing how the growth and falling rolls funding is allocated to local authorities—it is now based on decreases as well as increases in pupil numbers. We are also giving greater flexibility to allocate funding to meet the revenue costs of reducing surplus places.

Photo of Florence Eshalomi Florence Eshalomi Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

I thank the Minister for that reply. Declining school rolls in London is a big issue that I have raised in the House on a number of occasions. We are seeing families with young children being driven out of London because of the affordability of housing and the cost of living crisis, and a new report out today by London Councils shows that the situation is getting even worse. In Lambeth we are seeing a 17.5% drop in demand for reception places over the next five years. Archbishop Tenison’s School, opposite the Oval cricket ground in my constituency, closed last year. We need urgent action from the Government. The falling rolls funding is helping, but that is just for the short term. Will the Minister look at how we can protect our vital education assets? Will the Government finally address the cost of living crisis?

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds Minister of State (Education)

It is true that a period of change is coming as the bulge in primary school numbers starts to move into secondary schools, and it is important to plan ahead for that. We want to work with local authorities, and I know that the hon. Member’s local authority, Lambeth, is being proactive in looking at amalgamations where necessary. We also have pupil place planning advisers in each region working with local authorities and academy trusts, and school resource management advisers working directly with schools. There will also be some repurposing of some space in schools—I am not speaking specifically about her constituency—with opportunities for more early years provision in some cases, and more special educational needs provision. We will have to be agile and ensure that there is still sufficient space for parental choice.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham

As the Secretary of State knows—we share a local authority—when it comes to calculating demand for secondary school places, West Sussex gets a D-minus. One of my districts is oversubscribed and last year more than 50 children—almost all from one school—were taken out of district to a school that none of them had applied for and some of them had not heard of. Next year, it could be even worse. Despite help from my noble Friend Baroness Barran and the regional schools commissioner, West Sussex has still done absolutely nothing to address the shortage of secondary school places. Will the Minister intervene?

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds Minister of State (Education)

As I said to Florence Eshalomi, it is true that there is change as numbers move from primary into secondary, and it is important to try to plan ahead. On the specifics of West Sussex, I will be pleased to meet my hon. Friend to discuss it further.