Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Policy Development & Scrutiny Panel for Children & Young People Panel will be reviewing the recent decision made by the Cabinet to approve the proposed plans for the provision of school places for 2017 – 2021 and beyond.
This will be discussed at a Panel meeting on Tuesday 15th May which starts at 5:00 pm, in the Brunswick Room, Guildhall, Bath.
This item of the meeting (known as a ‘Call-In’) will consider the process leading to the Cabinet’s decision, taken on the 11th April 2018.
This cross-party Panel will consider reasons for the decision and the Call-In request, before recommending one of three options: the Cabinet, should reconsider the decision; the Cabinet should proceed as agreed or it should refer the matter to the full Council to carry out the role of the Panel in reviewing the decision process (if this option is chosen, the final decision would still reside with the Cabinet).
The Local Authority retains responsibility for pupil place planning in its area. In order to do this effectively the Local Authority must identify where new school places will be required as a result of underlying population growth and pupils generated from new housing development, how much additional provision is required and when. This additional provision might be provided via Basic Need funding from the Government or developer contributions (known as Section 106 requirements) or Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) as a result of new housing developments.
The Authority must plan for the additional provision that is needed where there is otherwise projected to be a future shortfall in school places.
The proposed plan will serve as a useful planning tool to identify areas and levels of need, when investment in places will be needed and also to inform discussions with developers concerning Section 106 developer contributions and land.
The Cabinet agreed the following:
2.1 Approve the proposed strategy for the provision of school places within the 2017 – 2021 plan period.
2.2 Approve the proposed strategy for the provision of school places over the longer term within the Core Strategy period and agree the emerging approach for the Local Plan period.
Subsequently 10 Councillors formally asked for the Cabinet’s decision to be reviewed - or Called-In for the following reasons:
- The Greater Bath Consortium Planning Area is too large to be practical as a means of planning the distribution of school places. Whilst a sufficient number of places are currently available across the whole city, this mechanism does not meet families’ needs as it does not take geographical context into account. This creates a different system for Bath children compared to those from North East Somerset (where geographical divisions form part of the plan), which may be discriminatory.
- Families from the South West of Bath are being disproportionately penalised by being allocated places at schools which are the furthest from home. This puts the biggest burden of travel on families from the part of the city which has on average the lowest family incomes. This may be an equalities issue which has not been fully considered.
- The planning system fails to consider the air quality implications of home to school travel as well as issues of congestion, time taken, and cost to families.
- Pupils with special educational needs or extra needs may be disadvantaged by the challenge of independent travel.
- Pupils travelling long distances to school may be disadvantaged in their social development by not living close to classmates.
- The planning system does not make an allowance for the number of children from outside of Bath and North East Somerset attending Bath schools, nor does it allow for the reciprocal arrangements adopted by Hayesfield and Beechen Cliff schools for siblings.
- It fails to look to the longer-term with regards to provision requirements at secondary level and the potential need for new schools.
At the public meeting, the Scrutiny Panel will receive a statement from Cllr Paul May (Conservative, Publow & Whitchurch), Cabinet Member for Children & Young People, and from Cllr Crossley ( Lib Dems, Southdown) on behalf of Councillors who requested the Call-in.
Members of the public wishing to speak at the meeting should contact Democratic Services on 01225 394458 by 5pm on Thursday 10th May 2018.
Full details and agenda papers are available from the Council’s website (www.bathnes.gov.uk) in the “Council and Democracy” section.