Each local authority in England is responsible for the implementation of the DfE’s national education policies in its state-funded schools. Independent schools and home-schooled children fall outside the remit of local authorities. State-funded education follows a series of stages: early-years for children aged 3-5; primary (year R (‘Reception’) to year 6) for ages 54-11; secondary (years 7-11) for ages 11-16; and post-16 (years 12-13) for ages 16-18 (also known as ‘sixth-form’) (Table Below). Each educational establishment will have a certain number of places available so each one will need to use analytical tools at their disposal in order to plan how many school places they need to create.
Table: Education stages in England (primary, secondary, sixth-form)
England’s state-funded school estate is currently undergoing a period of major reorganisation, which has implications for school place provision and the daily home-to-school-to-home travel patterns of pupils. In January 2018, there were 16,766 state-funded primary schools and 3,436 state-funded secondary schools in England (DfE, 2018a). The scale and complexity of the pupil place planning process varies considerably between local authorities: in the county of Lancashire, for example, there are 567 state-funded schools (attended by around 167,900 pupils), whilst in the county of Rutland, there are 21 state-funded schools (attended by about 5,580 pupils).
State-funded secondary schools are either ‘grammar’ schools or ‘comprehensive’ schools, with admission to the former typically based upon specific selection criteria. No such criteria apply to comprehensive schools, which consist of local authority maintained schools, religious schools, academies and free schools. For those schools, the forecasting of the number of places which is provided will depend on demographic factors such as birth cohorts. Academies and free schools are state-funded but, like religious schools, are autonomous (free) of local authority control in terms of both funding and curriculum (House of Commons, 2017). Free schools are a new genre of state-funded schools, whereas academies are typically schools that have converted from previous local authority control.