Two Sheffield schools could expand as city struggles with rising demand for pupil places

Secondary schools in south west Sheffield are facing a decade of being oversubscribed and two could potentially expand to cope with demand.

Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 12:16 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 12:16 pm

Silverdale and King Ecgbert are currently in ongoing negotiations with Sheffield Council but nothing has been confirmed.

Births in Sheffield rose by 25 per cent between 2002 and 2012 but demand for secondary school places is not evenly distributed across the city.

An additional 535 Y7-11 places are needed in the south west and the shortage of places will peak in 2023/24.

Silverdale School could expand. Picture Scott Merrylees

South west schools will not be able to absorb the increasing demand over the next decade within existing accommodation.

There’s also health and safety concerns around building capacity, particularly with corridor space.

Secondary schools have had a “tight system” over the past few years to ensure enough places in the south west were available but these schools have now reached their maximum capacity.

In 2016, Mercia school opened on the former Bannerdale site to help address demand with a Y7 of 180 places. All pupils in the south west could apply for a place and it supported other schools which were overcrowded.

But demand in the area is still increasing and the additional places created by Mercia haven’t been enough.

Why is the council considering Silverdale and King Ecgbert schools?

By expanding Silverdale and King Ecgbert, there would be sufficient secondary places in the south west into the next decade.

Officers say if these two schools were permanently expanded, inner city catchment children would be more able to obtain a place, maintaining diversity.

Council officer Nicola Shearstone said: “Within the south west, there is pressure on secondary school places by local children who live within this catchment area.

“South west schools are already operating at, or above, their capacities and forecasts suggest that some are unable to meet the demand from their catchment.

“Even with Mercia, pressure is forecast to continue. There are also other parts of the city forecast to see an increase in demand, with spikes for specific years impacting the ability of schools to accommodate this increase.

“Demand for school places from catchment families in the south west is expected to remain above capacity until the end of the decade.”

Forecasts suggest citywide pressure for places will ease following the 2023/24 peak but the shortage of places in the south west will continue and is not a short term issue.

The council is proposing small localised permanent expansions, coupled with temporary solutions where required in other parts of the city.

Who is going to pay for the schools to expand?

Each year the government gives the council capital funding to provide school places.

The Department for Education has given the council an advance of £14.67m towards the pressures but this is not additional money, just funding which has been brought forward.

The council has to consider keeping some of the money for future years and it will need to cover the pressure on places in other parts of the city, including paying for temporary provision.

It also needs to think ahead to when these pupils go into Post 16 education as the funding is only allocated for primary and secondary places

The report adds: “The council is mindful of the challenge as some pupils will not have the opportunity to transition through the year groups to continue their education and will have to look for alternative post 16 provision at that stage.”

To ensure there are enough places for September 2023, the council will have to add £1.5m from its own budget.

Selling vacant caretaker properties on school sites, including Wisewood, Gleadless and Netherthorpe, could generate up to £750,000

“To allow sufficient time for delivery of schemes within timescales for September 2023, capital approval is required to kickstart lengthy processes such as feasibility studies, planning permission, tendering, PFI negotiations, construction.”

Why can’t south west pupils go to other schools in the city?

The council doesn’t want to ship south west pupils to other schools in the city as it could have a disproportionate impact on families.

The report says: “South west schools would have a less balanced socio-economic intake as children from deprived inner city areas in the south west may miss out on admission to these schools.

“This risks significant appeals from parents and puts pressure on schools outside of the south west.

“If parents are successful on appeal, south west schools risk unplanned numbers through this process and have a further compounding effect on the overall capacity of the school.

“This would also have a greater level of impact on transport, impact on environment, cost for the council to transport these pupils out of the area and cost to parents.”

The council wants to preventing any further inequality and socio-economic divide in the city by maintaining diversity in south west schools

It would ensure access to good quality education for students in the inner city areas who are less advantaged and most vulnerable.

The report adds: “Typically, south west schools are located in the more advantaged suburban areas and have catchment areas that slice in towards the city centre, meaning each secondary school has an element of mixed socio-economic intake.

“The intakes of south west schools are skewed towards the more advantaged, suburban areas as the key admissions tie-breaker is distance and the inner city areas are further away from the south west schools.

“The lack of places in this area would drive further inequality socio-economic divide in the city.”

The council’s Executive will discuss the proposals at a meeting on Wednesday, November 17.