Breach school capacity and class limits if needed for Ukrainian children, says DfE

Schools can exceed their published admission numbers and class size limits to ensure children from Ukraine have places

Schools can exceed their published admission numbers and class size limits to ensure children from Ukraine have places

1 Apr 2022, 17:17

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The government is encouraging councils to breach school capacities and infant class size caps “where necessary” to accommodate Ukrainian children arriving in England.

Ministers have set out plans to accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian children following Russia’s invasion of the country in February, though the government has been criticised for the slow pace and strict criteria for its visa schemes.

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has now written to councils to make clear they “should be looking to provide places”.

Councils should should also “use flexibilities to admit above the published admission number and exceed the infant class size limit” where necessary, he said.

Infant class sizes are capped at 30 pupils, and each school’s PAN sets out how many places they typically offer.

But class sizes can be breached in certain circumstances, such as for some vulnerable pupils or forces children, and admissions authorities are allowed to admit above their PAN.

Zahawi also noted councils can also use the in-year fair access protocol to secure places outside the normal admissions process.

The letter to council chief executives and directors’ of children’s services has been shared with school leaders too. Councils are responsible for finding school places for the arriving children, but heads will have to plan support and provision for their new pupils.

Children should go to school ‘as soon as possible’

“Our expectation is that if there are school places available in the local area, even if not in the immediate vicinity of the family’s home, the local authority will work with families arriving from Ukraine to enable the children to attend school as soon as possible.”

He said children arriving under both the government’s new schemes in response to the war, the Ukraine Family Scheme and Homes for Ukraine, had “the right to access education and childcare whilst in the UK”.

Zahawi said he was “extremely grateful for the warm welcome” many councils had given to Afghan and Hong Kong families placed in their areas, and praised their “excellent work” helping asylum-seeking children.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, said there would be “many schools up and down the country welcoming Ukrainian refugee children into their classrooms”.

Schools will be “preparing language support, help with mental health and wellbeing, and will often become a point of contact for families when they need help”.

“It is in situations like this that great teachers and school leaders can be life-changing for children and young people.”

He said it was “important that schools are able to access to support they need, including translation services, so that they can fully meet the needs of these children and families”.

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