26/10/2015 - Permalink

School governors in Shropshire urged to respond to falling pupil numbers

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Shropshire’s school governors have been reminded that some of them still need to take action to meet the challenge of falling pupil numbers.

A briefing note was sent to all Shropshire schools in autumn 2014 on behalf of the Shropshire Schools Forum, outlining that the number of pupils on roll at the county’s schools is falling overall, and will continue to fall, bucking the national trend.

The note advised governing bodies to look very carefully at their projected pupil numbers over the next few years and the impact that the likely fall in numbers for many will have on their school’s funding. It stressed that schools need to work together to find local solutions.

At a meeting earlier this month to which all schools were invited, Shropshire Council acknowledged that many are taking appropriate actions, but expressed concern that this important message is not getting the response needed from a number of governing bodies.

The meeting was held to help headteachers and governors gain an understanding of how changes in pupil numbers impact on the funding received by the school.

Detailed financial planning workshops will now be held with individual schools where projected pupil numbers are likely to have a significantly negative impact on future funding.

Councillor Nick Bardsley, Shropshire Council’s deputy Cabinet member for children’s services, said:

“Unlike many other parts of the country, the number of pupils on roll at schools in Shropshire is falling overall – in some areas quite significantly.

“The number of pupils on roll at Shropshire schools has fallen by about 10% in the last five years and this trend will continue, with a further average fall of over 3.3% by 2019/20 – and by much more in some areas.

“At the same time, though new house building programmes are gathering pace in Shropshire, evidence shows that new housing developments do not result in significant increases in pupil numbers in the local schools.

“As pupils numbers fall, so will the overall funding for our schools as it is mainly pupil-driven.

“The priority for Shropshire Council is to maintain and improve the quality of education for our children and young people. The council wants to encourage collaborative working, consideration of alternative models of education provision and more efficient use of delegated resources. There is no standard or single blueprint for the whole of Shropshire. What works well in some areas may not work at all in other areas.

“Governors and headteachers need to give serious consideration to the best solution for their school and the schools  in their immediate area. In most cases doing nothing is not a realistic option.

“A budget modelling tool was sent to all Shropshire schools in the spring term outlining their projected pupil numbers for the next five years, and modelling the impact of changes in pupil numbers on the school’s forecast budget using the county’s school funding formula.

“The message we need to get out to governing bodies is this: please look very carefully at your projected pupil numbers for the next few years. In many areas there will be a significant fall in numbers and you need to plan for it.”

Shropshire Council is providing advice and support to the county’s schools regarding collaborative working. There are good examples in both primary and secondary sectors of successful collaborations, including collaborations, federations and multi-academy trusts.