Academy expansions – who’s been approved (Feb 2016)

Academy expansions - who's been approved (Feb 2016)

Regional schools commissioners have approved nearly 20 applications for academies to up their pupil numbers or expand their age range.

Recently released decision notices show that headteacher boards considered 24 applications for academy expansions during meetings from January 16 to February 15.

Ten applied to expand their pupil admission numbers. Of those, seven were given the green light and three were deferred. More applied to expand their age range, with 12 given permission and another two deferred.

Earlier this year the Local Government Association (LGA) called on the government to give councils powers to force academies
to expand.

Councils have a legal duty to ensure all children have access to a school place, but academies act as their own admissions authorities.

The LGA said giving councils the power to force academies to take on extra pupils would allow them to reduce pressure on places.

Schools Week revealed last year that some academies had reduced their intake – despite a places shortage in their area.

Rivers Academy, in Hounslow, decreased its planned admission number from 215 to 180, despite the area being in the top five most squeezed for places.

The most recent board decisions show just one academy reduced its intake. Minutes show that Jubilee school, in Kent was allowed to downsize after the board discussed its finances and performance. The document did not reveal the size of the reduction.

It was reported earlier this year that schools in Kent had taken in an extra 2,000 pupils in just five months last year to ease the pressure on places.

The East of England and North East London headteacher board deferred an application from the Appleton School, in Essex, to increase its pupil numbers.

Essex County Council is one of the local authorities that has received the most government cash in recent years to build new school places.

How academies would expand their age ranges was not listed in all the minutes from the eight regional headteacher boards, but those that did reveal specifics showed that a handful were expanding nursery provision.

It follows the government’s announcement that from September next year free childcare would be expanded to 30 hours a week.

Sam Gyimah, the childcare minister, has previously said that school-led nurseries were “at the heart of government plans”.

Previous analysis of the board minutes by Schools Week, published last week, found nearly a quarter of all requests to convert schools to become academies were deferred, but none was declined.

More than a quarter of all applications to become academy sponsors were either deferred or rejected over the same period.