To pre-scrutinise the proposed capital programme for Children’s Services prior to decision by the Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services and Young People on 13 January 2021.
The Committee received for pre-scrutiny, a report and presentation on the Children’s Services Capital Programme 2021/22 to 2023/24 (Item 7 in the Minute Book).
Members were taken through the presentation and important key areas of the report were highlighted which included significant investment across the school estate, national funding policy and the statutory responsibility for the planning of school places. The Committee heard that a further 4,600 school places were being proposed for consideration in the report, which would account for an extra 18,300 school places between 2013 and 2024, but issues such as new housing developments could also impact timescales. Members attention was also drawn to the Hampshire School Places Plan 2020-2025 which was listed at Appendix 6 of the report. Resources carried forward to meet future demand of school places were also detailed to Members. Table 4 of the report listed the planned new schools in Hampshire by September 2025, and Members heard that some of the new schools detailed for 2024 will be subject to change as housing developments are monitored.
Officers highlighted the significant investment in SEND places with £1million per annum being allocated towards this. Other priority areas included investment in Early Years and also investment in supporting suitability challenges in schools.
Slide 9 of the presentation slides detailed a breakdown of the investment of the 2021/22 to 2023/24 Capital Programme and the majority of this spend would be for new schools and extensions. Some of the pressures on the Capital Programme were highlighted which were detailed at presentation slide 11, but Members heard that each of the projects listed within the programme did contain a project contingency around possible risks. In conclusion, Members heard that the County Council continued to have a national reputation for quality school buildings.
In response to questions, Members heard:
· In relation to the Free Schools programme, there was an expectation that there would be further government announcements around funding and also the Free School Programme, and officers would update Members in due course.
· That in relation to carbon neutral schools, officers were continually looking at efficiency in new school designs, and close working with the Department for Education on this issue was ongoing.
· That there is a need for options and flexibility around new schools in relation to new housing developments, as there can be uncertainty as to how many dwellings will be family dwellings. Other options such as expanding the existing school estate would also be considered.
A vote was held and the recommendations were unanimously supported by the Committee.
That the Children and Young People Select Committee unanimously supported the recommendations to the Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services and Young People.