Blackpool Council has a statutory duty to ensure there are sufficient school places to accommodate the young people who reside in the borough and to ensure these places are of good quality with sufficient capacity to promote parental choice and diversity. There are currently around 19,000 young people within the borough for which educational provision is required.
Over recent years the local authority and relevant government bodies have invested heavily within the school estate, with circa £100m being invested over the past five year period.
There are currently:
- 29 primary schools
- 6 secondary
- 1 all-through
- 3 Special schools
- 1 pupil referral unit within the borough
There has been significant change in legislation around future role of the local authorities becoming commissioners of school place rather than providers.
This has further been supported by the Academies Act 2010 and the Education Act 2011. Blackpool has seen a significant move in this direction with a high percentage of Blackpool schools making the transition towards becoming Academies, either via conversion or sponsorship.
The monitoring of the number of school places is a continual and complex process and one which can be affected by many factors from the fluctuations and trends in the live birth rate to the migration and transience into and out of the town.
There are also a significant number of new houses proposed to be developed within the borough and in the surrounding boroughs of Wyre and Fylde over the next 15 years. With an estimated 4200 new homes being delivered over the next 15 years within Blackpool and substantial numbers on the Lancashire/Blackpool boundaries being either under current construction or having reached significant planning milestones.
In order to maintain sufficient quality and choice across the estate the local authority would typically ensure that there is between 5%-8% surplus capacity. During the academic year 2014/2015 there will be a 4.6% surplus capacity within the primary school sector and 9.2% surplus capacity within the secondary sector.
Future forecasting indicates that this surplus decreases steadily over the next five years and furthermore over the next 10 years with less than 2% being present by 2024 within primary sector. Whilst within the secondary sector the decline is significantly more acute with less than 1% surplus place being forecasted by 2019, thereafter and towards 2024 the data is indicating a shortfall in available places by circa 7.75%, (533 pupil places).
The local authority is in the process of reviewing the options available to ensure local supply for education places is met within the borough. The authority will be working with relevant providers and stakeholders over the next 6-12 months to ensure the strategic approach to the delivery of sufficient school places adheres to current legislative requirements and guidance, whilst maintaining sustainable educational choice, suitable for the young people of Blackpool.
A formal strategy is currently being developed and will be published on this page on completion.