Funding school places

Whilst rising pupil numbers are nothing new, the latest projections suggest that 880,000 extra pupils are expected in England by 2023. The Local Government Association (LGA) want the central government to fund the infrastructure to support this rise – but is there a danger they are underestimating the cost and selling future generations short?

With the number of households in England set to grow by 2.2 million in 2021, Government wants 200,000 new homes built every year. Notwithstanding the type of development (flats or houses, number of bedrooms, etc.), a Primary pupil yield of 0.3 per dwelling could generate over £680 million from developer infrastructure payments, every year, if new build targets are met.

Politically, the value of developer contributions needs to be weighed against the viability of new development and with such high expectations; it’s easy to see Local Authorities adopting a conservative approach to negotiating the payments that are intended to simply mitigate the impact building has on infrastructure.

However, spending on schools and school places has to be a priority for any Government at any stage in the electoral or economic cycle. The fact that we are living in austere times, shouldn’t simplify the debate over education funding to a single benefactor, be it the government or developer. Understating the true extent of population growth, the pressure on schools places and the pressures created by new developments is the start of a complicated process that ultimately needs to involve the local and national government as well housing developers and potentially other funders. Only by getting this right can we ensure that schools are fit for purpose and that future generations aren’t sold short.