David Adams (Area Education Officer – South Kent) was present for this item.
1. Mr Long introduced this item and explained that the Education Commissioning Plan set out how KCC discharged its statutory responsibility to provide sufficient early years, special educational needs, primary and secondary places. It was an all-encompassing and very detailed plan.
2. The cost of delivering the school places was met by the basic need grant from government and prudential borrowing by KCC. This was in addition to, where possible, S106 developer contributions and community infrastructure levy. It was important to note that KCC was attempting to discharge its statutory duties against the background of insufficient timely information from government. However, Mr Long was confident that, since the new government was in place, ministers would respond to the Council’s request for timely information and sufficient funding.
3. Mr Dunkley explained that this was the most challenging landscape experienced for some time. The Leader stressed that the methodology still projected significant increases in secondary provision required over the next 4 years or so and continuing into the late 2020s.
4. David Adams explained that the element of forward funding of future basic need and developer contributions would be of critical importance.
RESOLVED that Cabinet approve the Commissioning Plan for Education Provision in Kent 2020-24.
Mr Adams (Area Education Officer – South Kent), Mr Watts (Area Education Officer – North Kent), Ms White (Area Education Officer – East Kent) and Mr Abrahams (Area Education Officer – West Kent) were in attendance for this item
(1) Mr Adams briefly introduced the report which provided the Committee with the opportunity to comment on the Commissioning Plan for Education Provision in Kent 2020-24, prior to final approval by Cabinet on 27 January 2020.
Officers then responded to comments and questions from Members, including the following: -
a) Mr Adams referred to section 5.6 (Planning Guidelines – Expansion of Popular Schools and New Provision) within the Commissioning Plan for Education Provision in Kent 2020-2024 document and the expectation for individuals to adhere to the planning principles and guidelines set out within the plan. He welcomed a comment from a Committee Member in relation to potentially rewording the final bullet point within section 5.6, prior to the plan being submitted to Cabinet for approval on 27 January 2020, to outline the degree of flexibility in relation to the planning principles and guidelines.
b) Mr Dunkley referred to a proposal which related to Newington Community Primary Academy and explained the reasons behind the Leaders’ decision not to progress with the proposal.
c) Mr Adams responded to a question about commissioning school sixth form places, explaining that the County Council had a statutory duty to ensure that every young person had access to education, employment or training. He said that Kent did not receive capital funding from central government to build post-16 capacity. The Department for Education operated a Post-16 capital bidding process, but to be eligible, the Authority would have to demonstrate a shortfall of provision across the Post-16 sector. Mr Long (Cabinet Member for Education and Skills) and Mr Dunkley reassured Members that every young person in Kent would have access to education, employment or training as appropriate and Kent County Council would continue to engage with central government through Ministers and in partnership with the Regional Schools Commissioner in relation to post-16 provision.
d) Mr Adams referred to Kent County Council’s aspiration to maintain a 5% surplus capacity in both the primary and secondary sector and the financial pressures and challenges that maintaining the 5% surplus capacity would bring, particularly in relation to the secondary sector. He explained in detail each of the colour-coded bandings within the plan, referring specifically to the ‘Surplus/Deficit of places’ fields.
e) Mr Adams said once the legal and statutory processes had been completed to commission a particular provision, it appeared as available capacity within the charts. Provision yet to be commissioned was contained within the commissioning tables.
f) Mr Adams and Mr Abrahams explained the process in relation to determining the location for the establishment of new schools and referred specifically to two schools in Maidstone. Mr Abrahams stated that he could provide further information to a Member of the Committee outside of the meeting in relation to school capacity in Maidstone.