The Department collects information from local authorities on the number of school places in state-funded primary and secondary schools as part of the annual School Capacity Collection. Out of a total of 2,444 primary planning areas across England, there were 584 primary planning areas where the local authority forecast for 2015/16 (from May 2014) was greater than the capacity as reported at May 2014. This comparison of forecasts and capacities does not take into account the number of additional places that have been or will be created after May 2014, through targeted basic need projects, new free schools, and places being provided through local authority projects.
In the early stages of the free school policy, proposer groups were not obliged to provide a specific site for their proposed school so we are unable to ascertain the number of planning areas in need of additional primary school places in 2015 where there has never been a primary or all-through free school application.
As at May 2014, 573 of the 584 planning areas in need of additional school places by September 2015 did not have an open primary free school or all-through primary free school. Ten of these planning areas had a primary-phase free school open in September 2014.
Every free school has been opened in response to either the need to provide extra school places, the need to provide parents with greater choice or the need to provide more high quality school places. Almost three quarters of free schools have opened in areas with a forecast need for more places and 94 per cent of free schools approved since January 2014 plan to open in areas with a need for more school places.