Birth rate reduction leads to surplus school places in Milton Keynes

A reduction in births in well-established communities across Milton Keynes means there are too many places available in schools.

The response from local education chiefs is to propose cuts in the numbers of children that they will let in to four schools in the borough from September 2020.

A classroom

A classroom

These include a popular school that will be helping its neighbours to fill up, and another that had an “Inadequate” rating from Ofsted last year and wants to cut its intake to make it easier for it to improve.

Milton Keynes Council is the admissions authority for community and voluntary controlled schools in the borough. Other types of schools have their own admissions authorities. This is where reductions in school numbers have been proposed.

> Holne Chase Primary, in Bletchley, wants to reduce its admission numbers from 45 to 30;

> Loughton Manor First, which has a catchment area of Loughton and Great Holm, plans to cut from 90 to 60 the number of children it admits each year;

> The Willows School & Early Years Centre, in Fishermead, is also proposing a cut from 60 to 45;

> Langland Community School, in Netherfield, wants to cut its admission numbers in half, from 60 to 30.

A report to be considered by Councillor Zoe Nolan, the MK Council cabinet member for children and families, says one popular school, Loughton Manor First, wants to cut its admission number to help other schools in the area. Another Langland Community School wants to cut numbers to help it recover after being rated as ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in September 2018.

Miranda Darbyshire, the council’s strategic lead for education access, says: “The headteacher of Loughton Manor First School agreed that the reduction from 90 to 60 for the school is a sensible move given the low birth rate and projected numbers of young children in the catchment area, also, given the popularity of Loughton Manor, it should support improved admission numbers to other Milton Keynes schools, reducing the number of children coming to Loughton Manor who live at a greater distance from the school.

“It will provide Loughton Manor with the capacity to support special educational needs (SEND) more effectively as dedicated rooms are much needed and currently lacking.

“Further, it gives scope for Loughton Manor to develop its offer as an Early Years childcare setting to working parents, in that the school will be better able to provide for the 30 hour offer in the Nursery class alongside our before and after school daycare.”

Langland Community School was rated ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted in September 2018 and has since federated with Greenleys Junior School.

Miranda Darbyshire’s report says: “The new governing board of the schools believe that a reduction in PAN will support effective budget planning and urgent school improvement.

“The popularity of the school has reduced in recent years. In September 2018, whilst 57 children lived in the catchment area only 25 children were allocated a place at the school.

“The school currently has 35 vacancies in Year R. The total capacity of the school is 420 and there are 297 children on roll as at January 2019. A reduction in the PAN will also support other local schools by reducing number of surplus places within the borough.”

Cllr Nolan will be invited to decide on the published admission numbers at a meeting on Tuesday (February 19). She has been given delegated power by the council, which means that it does not have to be decided by a committee. A decision has to be made by Friday, March 15.