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  • Gavin Macdonald

Wave 15: Developing a Need Case

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

15 mainstream schools will be approved in the next free school wave and evidencing the need for the new school will be vital to ensure a successful application.

The Department for Education (DfE) has set out criteria within Section B of the Wave 15 mainstream application form that instruct proposer groups on providing evidence of need for a new school in their intended planning area. This blog will highlight some of the key criteria, included in the how to apply guide, that you should consider when justifying the case for basic need within your application.

It is important to note that Section B will be assessed prior to the rest of the application; failure to meet the criteria in B1 and B2 may mean that the rest of the application is not considered.

So how can you ensure you present a strong need case?

Section B1

‘Section B1 – Evidence of the need for additional school places’ is how the DfE will evaluate requirements for additional places that your school will cater for. Different school types have different requirements, so be sure to read the guidance carefully.

The key factor that must be demonstrated in section B1 across all types of provision is that there is a demand for at least half of the extra places that the new school will supply in the specified planning area.

The DfE has compiled a map to help identify forecasted capacity within local authority planning areas, which can be found here. However, we strongly recommend confirming this using data from the School Capacity Survey 2021 (SCAP21). When downloading the data, you should use the spreadsheet entitled “school planning estimates 2021”. The column titled “additional need minus spare places” will show you how much need is required once any surplus spaces have been accounted for. To note:

· You should look at data for the furthest possible year (2025/26 for primary, 2027/28 for secondary and post 16)

· Negative numbers in this column mean there is a surplus of places, so a new school will not be needed

· Consider the overall primary and secondary need, but also look specifically at the figures for Reception and Year 7: this will show the need across a single year group, which will help you decide how many forms of entry are required

· You should look at the need in specific planning areas of the local authority. If one planning area is in need of places, but surrounding planning areas have a surplus, these schools may be able to absorb any need in the LA. This is particularly the case in smaller and urban local authorities where travel between planning areas is relatively simple.

Speaking to the local authority is essential in order to establish if there is any information not accounted for in the SCAP data, e.g. changes in birth or migration rates, new housing developments, existing plans for school openings, or expansions or closures of schools in the area.

Proposer groups that are uncertain on what age range they plan to open a school based on justifying basic need, should take into consideration some of the following trends*:

· In school year 2025/2026 there are no LAs with a net forecasted deficit of capacity in Reception and Year 1

· In school year 2027/2028 there are 40 LAs with a net forecasted deficit of capacity in Year 7

· In school year 2027/2028 there are 70 LAs with a net forecasted deficit of capacity for national curriculum Year 11

*It should be noted that this is the net value of total capacity less forecasted pupil numbers for the LA, so further investigation at place planning level as outlined above is required.

Proposers looking to set up 16-19 schools will need to consider additional information to make a holistic need case for the specific offer being proposed. This will include looking at the type of offer available from other post-16 providers in the area, travel times for post-16 pupils, and demonstrating an understanding of the pupil cohort and local economic needs. Watch out for our upcoming blog post which digs deeper into the requirements for post-16 proposers.

Section B2

‘Section B2- Evidence of the need for more good school places’ is how the DfE will assess if opening a school in a proposed area will have significant impact on delivering better outcomes for pupils. Although applications from all areas of England will be considered, the following will be prioritised:

· Areas that are one of the 55 education investment areas (EIAs, and particularly one of 24 priority education investment areas (PEIAs) – these are areas where literacy and numeracy outcomes are the poorest

· Schools which will boost the number of disadvantaged children attending top universities, with this focus being of significant relevance to proposers of 16-19 provision

To justify the need to improve educational standards in your proposed area it is important to present the following within your application:

· The Ofsted grades of similar providers in the area

· Data on the destinations of students after Key Stage 5 for proposers providing places for 16-19 provision

· Attainment and progress data, particularly for the outcomes of disadvantaged pupils

This information can be found using the Government’s Compare School Performance tool. Note that data is limited from 2020 due to COVID-19.

If you have any questions or would like support to build a strong need case for your mainstream school proposal, speak to us at Create: Schools by clicking here and an advisor will be happy to help.


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