Determining primary school capacity: guidance for local authorities

Guidance on the determination of the capacity of primary schools, with the aim of providing a consistent approach to calculating the capacity.

2. Purpose and Scope of Guidance

This document provides guidance to Local Authorities on the determination of "School Capacity" with the aim to provide a more consistent approach to calculating the capacity of schools across the country. A consistent approach could be achieved if all Local Authorities adopt this guidance.

Following consultation with Local Authorities, it was generally agreed that providing guidance on calculating Secondary School capacities was not a priority at this time. It was suggested that it might be more appropriate once Curriculum for Excellence and the new National Qualifications have been fully implemented across the country, and any implications for school layout are understood. As a result, this guidance is focused on calculating the capacity of Primary Schools in Scotland.

This guidance does not apply to pre-school or Additional Support Needs ( ASN) provision within a Primary School.

Given the diverse nature of Local Authorities in Scotland, both geographically and demographically, it would not be possible or effective for the Scottish Government to impose a strict method for calculating school capacity which would work in all Authority areas. Different factors will have a greater or lesser impact on school capacities depending on local circumstances, and the effective management of the relevant factors will vary. It should be recognised that a proportion of Scotland's schools will not be able to comply fully with this guidance at this time.

This guidance sets out the Scottish Government's recommended method of calculating primary school capacity which Local Authorities should endeavour to follow as far as possible in order to increase consistency across the country to achieve the benefits set out in Section 1.3. The proposed method is designed to be flexible to allow Local Authorities to apply it to suit their existing systems and needs. It remains a Local Authority responsibility to choose how they calculate capacity in their areas.

This guidance supersedes the Scottish Government Guidance on Determining School Capacities - Circular No 3/2004 issued in December 2004 for Primary Schools.

2.1 Why Calculate School Capacity?

A clear, consistent basis for calculating the capacity of schools requires to be defined for the following reasons:

a) Forward planning

To allow assessment of the need for future investment in the school estate, e.g. new build and refurbishment of schools and other changes in school provision taking account of factors such as population trends and new housing.

To anticipate the impact of new housing to secure appropriate developer contributions.

b) Curricular and organisational needs

To establish the number of children for whom the school can provide the desired curriculum, and to allow assessment of the implications of any new staffing standards, changing methodologies and new resources.

c) Placing requests

To establish a clear and consistent basis for contributing towards determining whether placing requests should be granted or refused and identifying schools which are currently over capacity or may exceed capacity in the future.

d) Calculation of performance indicators

Accurate capacity and roll information for each school is required to monitor and evaluate the usage of school places.

e) Informing consultations on proposed changes to the school estate

To meet legal requirements to provide clear, accurate information in consultations on changes to the school estate, e.g. school closures, that the public has confidence in.

f) Scottish Government Policy

To take account of the priorities and objectives set by the Scottish Government, such as:

To ensure that P1-P3 classes in primary schools comply with class size legislation and P4-P7 classes comply with the maxima set out in teachers' terms and conditions of service.
Changes to curriculum policy and guidance and the provision of the facilities required to deliver the curriculum.

The Scottish Government recognises that capacity is an important practical measure for Local Authorities which has many uses. It should however be borne in mind that capacity is only one of many measures of the school estate, and that it should only ever be considered alongside other qualitative measures such as educational issues and geography.

The Scottish Government does not have a recommended occupancy level for schools. It is up to Local Authorities to consider both quantitative and qualitative measures when making decisions on their school estate.

2.2 Existing Policy and Legislation

This guidance encompasses legislative and policy changes.

The statutory guidance issued under Section 28A(3) of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 (the "1980 Act"), which authorities are required to have regard to, sets out the exceptions to the duty on an education Authority to comply with a placing request. Section 44(4) of the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc. Act 2000, which came into force on 31 December 2004, inserted an amendment into Section 28A of the 1980 Act which enables authorities to refuse a placing request in certain circumstances as if to allow it would have the consequence that the capacity of the school would be exceeded in terms of pupil numbers. This increases the importance for Local Authorities to determine the capacity of their schools.

Regulation 2 of the Education (Lower Primary Class Sizes) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2010, inserted an amendment into Section 3 of the Education (Lower Primary Class Sizes) (Scotland) Regulations 1999, which set the new lower statutory class size maximum of 25 in all single stage P1 classes. Class size maxima in P1-P3 single stage classes are governed by the aforementioned regulations and Local Authorities are required to take account of these as well as the class size maxima set by national agreement in teachers' terms and conditions of service.

Current class size maxima are as follows*:

Primary 1: 25 pupils
Primary 2-3: 30 pupils
Primary 4-7: 33 pupils
Composite class: 25 pupils

* NB: These class size limits are current at the date of publication of this guidance. However, the Scottish Government has indicated that it intends to consult in 2014 on possible changes to these limits

Local Authorities are required to have regard to these limits. These have been included in the Primary School Capacity methodology below.

The full text of the new Section 3 of the Education (Lower Primary Class Sizes) (Scotland) Regulations 1999 is set out in Appendix 2.

Importantly, when applying this guidance, Local Authorities must ensure they are adhering to the School Premises (General Requirements and Standards) (Scotland) Regulations 1967 in relation to school site size, sanitary facilities etc., relevant aspects of the 1980 Act which relate to school accommodation, pupil safety etc. as well as relevant building standards and health and safety legislation.


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