The department publishes local authority basic need scorecards for primary schools, based on data provided by local authorities. The latest scorecards contain departmental estimates of the number of additional primary school places needed to meet demand in 2016/17, once existing capacity and plans for new places at 1 May 2014 have been factored in. The data and details of the methodology used for the estimates can be found at:
The scorecard summary data shows that across England 63,100 additional primary places were estimated to be needed to meet demand in 2016/17, based on capacity and planned places at May 2014. The department’s estimates show that the 63,100 additional primary places needed were spread across 1,518 (out of a total of 2,444) primary planning areas where one or more places was required. Of these 1,518 planning areas, 60 areas contain free schools that have opened up to and including September 2014.
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 school places in 2016 where there has never been a free school application.
Many free schools will have opened in response to past need for new school places in planning areas, which now no longer display future need as a result. It is worth noting that planning areas are set by local authorities, and can change from year to year.
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. 83% of free schools approved since January 2014 are in areas where there was a recognised need for additional school places. 74% of open mainstream free schools are in areas where there was a need for additional school places. There are currently 104 mainstream free schools in the pipeline, of which 64 are primary or all-through schools.
Many local authorities are recognising the opportunity that the free schools programme provides and are encouraging new and existing high quality education providers to apply to set up a new school in their area. We encourage all local authorities to do likewise.
The department does not currently publish basic need scorecards for secondary school places. Of the 998 secondary planning areas, 84 had at least one open mainstream secondary or all through free school by September 2014.