Coronavirus: DfE flags risk of school places shortage

The government is assessing the impact of coronavirus outbreak on school building projects and school places

Catherine Lough

Coronavirus: The government is assessing the impact of the pandemic on school building projects

The Department for Education is investigating whether Covid-19 could lead to insufficient school places as building projects are delayed or paused.

National schools commissioner Dominic Herrington has written to local councils asking them to provide information "on the level of risk to your own school building projects" for September 2020.

This is part of work being carried out by the department in "assessing the potential impact of Covid-19 on the sufficiency of school places for academic year 2020-21", the letter states.

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The letter says: "We will join up this information with our own intelligence about the delivery of free schools and Priority School Building projects due to open or move into permanent buildings in September 2020.

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"This, in turn, will allow us to identify which local authorities require support in meeting their duty to provide sufficient school places and to engage with them on mitigations and contingency planning."

The DfE has scrapped the Pupil Place Planning National Offer Day Survey and instead wants a "very focused, short return from each local authority to capture the vital latest information on the level of risk to your own school building projects (ie, presumptions and expansions) for September 2020."

Mr Herrington wrote to local authorities on Friday to announce that Primary National Offer Day -– when parents receive confirmation of their child's allotted primary school place – would go ahead on 16 April this year. 

The letter also said that admission appeals should be heard by video or telephone call, as appeal panels will be unable to meet during the outbreak of Covid-19.  

It acknowledged that many local authorities would be "concerned about how to manage admission appeals over the coming weeks".

It said: "This is understandable and we need to agree a way which takes into consideration the requirements around administration of admission appeals and consistency of approach, but also considers the current situation on Covid-19."

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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