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(UK) Overcrowding; "heads forced to cram SPED pupils into converted therapy spaces"

Dec 2, 2022, Schools Week: DfE plans to check pupil capacity in secondary schools Local authorities could then use the updated numbers to force schools to take more pupils

Ministers plan to send capacity checkers into all secondary schools to see if they can fit in more pupils.

Local authorities could then use the updated numbers to force schools to take more pupils, documents obtained by Schools Week reveal.

Government officials also believe the checks would help to boost funding – as schools could take in more pupils – and would relieve pressure on the government to build new schools to meet any rise in pupil numbers.

A pilot involving “net capacity assessment” (NCA) visits in more than 200 mainstream schools found 6,000 potential extra places, the documents show. ‘CRITICAL WE HAVE ACCURATE FIGURES’

The Department for Education now plans to carry out two years of assessments at 4,500 secondary and special schools from May next year.

Simon Lindsay, the department’s stakeholder manager, told the Schools and Academies Show last month: “Capacity data is so important. It underpins decision-making at every level. It’s critical we have accurate figures.”

Lindsay said the government “just don’t know enough about capacity in special schools”. As revealed by Schools Week, the DfE will start to record capacity figures after revelations that heads have been forced to cram pupils into converted therapy spaces and staffrooms.

Secondaries would be prioritised because of increased place pressure in recent years, he added.

Slides from a government presentation earlier this year showed officials were concerned about “significant levels” of difference between the DfE’s annual School’s Capacity and Places (SCAP) survey….

The latest SCAP results from May last year show that one in five secondaries in England were full or over capacity.


Officials will contract “data collection organisations” to measure room size and usage with an updated net capacity assessment tool and methodology….

Documents presented to councils in June show officials “envisaged” local authorities would use the assessments as evidence in objections against academies unwilling to increase their published admissions number (PAN).

The government’s white paper pledged a beefed-up role for councils over admissions, including “backstop powers” to force trusts to admit children and the ability to challenge a school’s PAN if an increase was needed to provide “sufficient places and no suitable school otherwise agrees to provide them”….

After the pilot, 89 per cent of schools were happy overall with their site visit. But 20 per cent – particularly special schools – suggested site visits out of term time to avoid disruption.

The DfE is also hoping to release a new NCA tool for local authorities to measure special schools, which will also be included in the SCAP survey from next year.


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