Providing sufficient school places

This objective is centred around trying to reduce the gap between the number of places and the number of pupils. The DfE recommend that local authorities, wherever practicable, maintain a surplus of places above pupil numbers of no more than 5%. This is to ensure there is an element of parental preference and spaces for families that move into an area. Reducing the number of surplus places ensures better use of available resources but does restrict greater parental preference.
Further details about the principles of school place planning and a breakdown of data by District & Borough Council areas can be found at:
We aim to provide a school places buffer of 5% by 2022

December 2019 performance

This objective is centred on trying to reduce the gap between the number of places available in mainstream education provision for 4 – 18 year olds and the number of pupils (October census). The Department for Education (DfE) recommends that local authorities, wherever practicable, maintain a minimum of 5%. surplus places to enable them to meet their statutory duty with operational flexibility (families relocating to a specific area) and enabling there to be an  element for parental preference.
Based on the house building trajectory’s provided by the District & Boroughs, in October 2022 the County Council is anticipating  121,197 pupils to be needing school places across West Sussex. This won’t necessarily lead to a reduction in the number of surplus places as many of these housing developments are in areas of the County where spare capacity within existing schools is limited.
Our 2020-21 milestone target is 7% buffer.


To ensure we work towards  meeting our target a number of activities are ongoing:-
  • An annual review of schools capacity and consideration is given to each schools situation when the annual review of projected pupil numbers is undertaken
  • A programme of expansion, where appropriate, to existing schools is ongoing to cater for an increase in demand across the 24 planning areas, additional places are discussed with the schools as required
  • Monthly discussions are held with the DfE Free School Group regarding existing Free Schools, the Free School Programme and locations.  These schools will be built to their actual  capacity but not all of the accommodation will be in use from the outset, it can take up to 7 years for a new primary and 5 years for a new secondary school to fill to their planned capacity.
  • Continuous review is undertaken with all District & Boroughs on major development and progress against their housing targets, to match local demand to local authority house building programme and district and Borough planning.
  • The annual consultation process school place planning which includes on any changes to school capacity is rigorously applied to meet legal requirements.
  • In pressure areas, additional places are negotiated with schools as required.