School Organisation Plan 2021
Section 1: Introduction and purpose of this plan
Although the statutory requirement to publish an annual School Organisation Plan (SOP) was abolished in 2004, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council (the Council) has continued to publish an updated plan to inform schools, parents, and the public. The SOP gives information about the number, types and sizes of schools maintained by the Council, Academies and Free Schools.
The Council does however have a statutory duty to ensure that there are enough school places in the borough to meet demand. The Council must therefore plan, organise and commission places for all state-funded schools in Stockton so that high standards are maintained, diverse school communities are created, and fluctuating pupil numbers are managed efficiently.
The demand for school places changes over time - this document is 'live' and, as such, is updated every two years. It sets out where the Council currently thinks there will be a need to provide more school places and if there may be a need to provide fewer places over the coming years. Increases in demand can lead to the creation of a new school or the expansion of schools, whereas decreases in demand can lead to a reduction in school provision.
Predicting school demand is a complex task because where children go to school involves a range of different and often conflicting factors, and as a result planning for school places is based on probabilities, not certainties. This means that while projections may be made from robust calculations, they do not offer any guarantees.
It is important for us to be as open and transparent as possible when considering school organisation decisions. We strive to communicate effectively with schools and school communities about the school place pressures in their area. However, the Council must also endeavour to manage expectations regarding school organisation proposals that are less certain. This document does not seek to definitively set out all the actions the Council intends to take in the future, but rather is intended to provide an overview of issues that may arise in Stockton. The Council will only name particular schools in this document when there is sufficient assurance that a proposal will be implemented or where this has already taken place.
This updated School Organisation Plan (SOP) aims to provide an overview of current and future pupil numbers which supports planning the provision of school places across the borough. This document will be produced every two years and be made available to our schools and partners.
School Place Planning is a critical aspect of the Council's statutory duty to assess the local need for school places to ensure that every child can be provided with a place in a state-funded school in Stockton-on-Tees. The Council needs to demonstrate that they have robust procedures and systems for forecasting pupil numbers taking account of changes in local circumstances to ensure there will be the right number of schools in the right places for the number of pupils expected in the future.
Schools submit data on pupil rolls to the Council in October, January, and May each year through the School Census. Schools are encouraged to play an active role in the planning of pupil place process and to identify at an early stage any concerns with projections that may impact on future school planning.
To enable the Council to gain a clearer understanding of where there are current and anticipated pressures in both primary and secondary school (including Academies) places in the borough, the Council have grouped all schools into specific local planning areas. These planning areas are listed in 'Information on planning areas' from page 16. This will allow more detailed analysis of need and inform decisions regarding the use of funding to meet demand. For Primary we have six planning areas namely Billingham & Wolviston, North Stockton, Central Stockton, Thornaby, Ingleby Barwick and Eaglescliffe & Yarm. For Secondary we operate three, namely Billingham & Wolviston, Stockton North & Central and Stockton South.
This plan also sets out the Council's policies and key aims on school organisation and the procedures required by law for making changes such as opening, closing, or enlarging schools.
The Council has in place a strategic group that meets regularly and uses not only the SOP and the data supporting it but also detail from the School Capacity (SCAP) return, in making school place planning decisions. These include increasing school level Published Admission Numbers (PAN's) / Capacity in response to predicted demand for places and the allocation of Basic Need Capital monies to those schools deemed the most appropriate following feasibility options work.
The headlines captured within the SOP are also used to inform the commentary, School Capacity and Pupil Forecast data the Council submits in support of the SCAP return to the Department for Education (DfE) annually. The SCAP provides the DfE with information on all schools which are maintained by the Council as well as the data for Academies and Free Schools.
The SCAP is used to inform Key Decisions regarding School Place Planning pressures across the borough and Capital allocation priorities across primary and secondary schools in terms of refurbishment and maintenance. This SOP should be read in conjunction with any Capital Papers to Cabinet on future Capital Plans for support and the allocation of appropriate funding.