Agenda item

Commissioning Plan for Education Provision 2012-17


(Report by Mr M Whiting, Cabinet Member, Education, Learning and Skills and Mr P Leeson, Corporate Director, Education, Learning)


(Mr D Adams, Area Education Officer, Mid Kent, Mr S Webb Area Education Officer, West Kent and Mrs A Osbourne, Area Education Officer, East Kent, were present for this item)


1.               The Cabinet Member, Education, Learning and Skills, Mr Whiting, introduced the report advising that 84 responses had been received by 19 June, when the consultation ended, and had been considered as the Commissioning Plan was being amended.  The Plan was generally welcomed.   Members would have regular engagement on the Plan and the Plan would be revised on an annual basis.


2.               The Corporate Director, Mr Leeson, advised that the local authority, as well as being a provider, had to be an effective Commissioner.  The local authority had to ensure sufficient early years provision and had the responsibility for Special Educational Needs provision. 


3.               The Commissioning Plan had been welcomed widely.  Responses on the Plan indicated that people wanted the process to the open and transparent on where additional capacity was needed.  It was the duty of the local authority to procure quality provision for the children and families in Kent.


4.               The Plan sought to indicate the pressures and issues in the Kent and had clear definite proposals on what could go forward and be funded.


5.               Mr Leeson concluded by acknowledging the work undertaken by the 3 Area Educational Officers to produce the Commissioning Plan.


6.               Members made comments and asked questions which included the following:


a)    In response to a question, Mr Leeson advised that increasing the capacity of a school, including an academy, would be a process of joint planning and negotiation.  Enlarging a school was a lengthy process.  As the Commissioner, the local authority would make a request to the academy to enlarge its capacity.

b)    In reply to a comment, Mr Leeson suggested that there should be sensitive discussions made on surplus schools.  There was 5-7% surplus capacity.  The provision needed to be in the right places.

c)     There was a suggestion that the focus should be on basic need rather than a focus on parental need. Mr Whiting explained that the Plan proposed to expand on the number of surplus spaces to accommodate parental preferences. The local authority was committed to accommodate parental preference where it can.

d)    In reply to a comment, the Chairman gave Members his assurance that   there would be further consultations where Members could express their views.  This included the Locality Boards and public meetings within the districts to be held before the Cabinet Member took the decision.

e)    Mr Christie stated that this was a comprehensive document but he did not accept paragraph 1.6 of the Plan that referred to welcoming free schools.  He had concerns that the free schools would be where parents wanted them to be rather than where the local authority wanted them to be.  He wanted to see priority given to supporting schools in their locality.

f)      Mr Leeson welcomed comments from Members on the District sections of the Plan to ensure it remained transparent.

g)    In reply to a comment on Bearsted, Maidstone, Mr Adams advised that this was a good example of the Plan not just being about what communities were asking for, data was detailed in the appendices to the Plan, this was also school pattern based and did not take into account the parents preferences.  There were pressures in Maidstone it was about where they were addressed.  It was a question of do you create places where pupils live or parents preferences.

h)     Mr Christie stated that St Botolph's was in the right position in Northfleet for the expansion, however it was the church criteria which he objected to.  Mr Webb advised that for the additional 30 places 30% of them were allocated to non-Christian children..

i)       Mr Christie then referred to Sevenoaks District and questioned the need for grammar schools to expand.  The Council was committed to selective education and as such the County Council had endorsed the provision for grammar school provision in Sevenoaks.


7.               The Chairman sought Members agreement to note Items E1a to Item E3d and following the public consultations receive a full report in November.  Mr Christie was happy to note the Commissioning Plan but not the recommendations in Item E3b.


8.               RESOLVED that:


a)      the responses to the comments and questions given by Members and the Plan be noted; and

b)      agenda Items E1a and E3b be noted and following the public consultation a full report be submitted to the November meeting.

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