School places and local authorities’ power to provide them

February 29th, 2016 by Peter Oldham QC

The Local Government Association and the DfE are in a row about school places.   The LGA says that there is a looming crisis, with huge numbers of secondaries oversubscribed and primaries hard pressed to meet growing population trends.  The DfE has accused the LGA of scaremongering, and says that sufficient places can be assured through appropriate planning. It says that it allocates funding well in advance so that local needs can be met.

This throws the spotlight on authorities’ powers and duties to provide school places. They have to ensure a sufficiency of places in their area under section 14 of the Education Act 1996.  That power has to be exercised with a view to securing diversity in the provision of schools: section 14(3A).  Section 14A requires them to consider parental representations as to the exercise of the section 14 power. 

Section 6A(1) of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 provides:-

6A  Requirement to seek proposals for establishment of new Academies

(1)     If a local authority in England think a new school needs to be established in their area, they must seek proposals for the establishment of an Academy.

The effect of this section, along with sections 7 and 10 of the 2006 Act, is that authorities cannot publish proposals of their own to set up a maintained school unless (1) SoS’s consent is obtained and (2) the proposed school would replace another school or there has been no response, or no approved response, to an invitation for proposals from anyone else.

Peter Oldham QC


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