Essex CC justification for new primary school does not add up

Having passed on the information contained within our post (Are there really plans for a FIFTH primary school in Sawyers Hall Lane? as promised to the local councillors for Brentwood North, I have now been passed the responses of Essex County Council (ECC) to questions raised by Barry Aspinall the County Councillor for the area.

In a written answer from one of the Council’s School Organisation Officers, it is confirmed that ECC have bid for funds following the announcement last December by The Department for Education (DfE) of the Targeted Basic Need Programme and that they expect the result of their bid to be known imminently. The proposal for a new primary school in Sawyers Hall Lane is just one of the bids submitted.

Should the bid be successful, and ECC still wish to proceed, then a “sponsor” would be sought to provide the new school. This process could commence as soon as July 15th.

ECC confirm that, “District consultations will be carried out to increase primary school provision to meet basic need requirements. Schools, parents and the wider community will have a chance to respond to the proposals put forward to meet the additional places needed in the area.”

cashHaving had recent experience of “consultations” once “proposals have been put forward” I would prefer the case for a new school to have been agreed by the community prior to any bid for funds in the first place.

That is why I was particularly interested in the figures presented by ECC in response to a direct question from our County representative. I reproduce the question and response in its entirety below:

“l would like to see the figures that demonstrate Brentwood has a need for more Primary School places. When the housing development on Highwood Hospital site was built we were told there was sufficient school places to meet any increased demand.”

“The table below shows the forecasts for Reception places for Brentwood town which include the following schools: Bentley St Paul’s CE (V/A) P, Hogarth P, Holly Trees P, Hutton All Saints’ CE P, Larchwood P, Long Ridings P, St Helen’s Cath I, St Joseph’s the Worker Cath P, St Mary’s CE V/A P, St Peter’s CE (V/A) P, St Thomas of Canterbury CE I, Warley P and Willowbrook P

Academic year born 






Year to be admitted to Reception










Number of childrenregistered with a GP


647 (1)

648 (1)

682 (2)

653 (3)


Total number ofReception places








Predicted localrequirement for

Reception places







Predicted surplus/deficitof reception places


7 (1)

-5 (1)

-51 (2)

-27 (3)


Predicted localrequirement for places

with potential pupils

from new housing







Predicted deficit of reception places with potential pupils from new housing within this group of schools (4) 










There is an increase in the number of children due to start school in the area and hence the need for more places to meet demand over the next 4 years”

Far from easing my concerns, this response increases my fear that this bid has been constructed in haste and in error.

Based on the numbers presented here, we are none the wiser about the case for a new school because, I would suggest, the figures make no sense. I have inserted brackets into the table to make it easier to follow.

(1) The change in numbers registered with a GP (i.e. proveable, actual existing children) goes up by 1 between 2013/14 intake and 2014/15 and yet the “predicted local requirement” goes up by 12.

(2) The change in registered number then goes up the next year by 34 (a high birth year) but the “requirement” increases by 46.

(3) The next year (2016/17) registered numbers are only 6 higher than for 2013/14 and yet the “requirement” is 34 higher!

(4) Even allowing for what is effectively guesswork, these figures only indicate that Essex CC are expecting to need between 6-16 places per year for housing development capacity.abacus

Don’t forget, the proposal is for a new 30 entry primary school. Based on the numbers of actual children in the area at present, in my view these figures only make a case for extra provision for one of the next four years. Should we really be spending public money to cater for a one year bubble?

The discrepancies above may be explainable if some parameter has been applied that justifies them, but this is not presented to us. If it hasn’t been presented to the DfE either then the bid should be rejected on the grounds that “basic need” has not been proved.

Unless the evidence for another potential new “free school” does not require such scrutiny.

In the current climate, it is essential for the basis of all public investment to be fully understood and properly justified. I am grateful to our local councillors for properly raising questions following our initial contact. I have shared the above concerns about the response they have received in advance of writing this blog and we will pass on any developments.

We will happily publish any clarifications.

For the sake of all taxpayers, as well as the residents of Sawyers Hall Lane, the case for a new school must be proved before any “sponsors” are engaged or any further state money is spent.

Stephen Mayo


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