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Good schools should be able to expand by more than 25%

Much excitement over the comments by the former Children's Minister Tim Loughton evidence to the Education Select Committee. I rather sensed that Mr Loughton's criticisms of his former Department were intended to be general ones about the culture and procedure rather than personal ones about Michael Gove as the Secretary of State.

There was then a counter briefing against Mr Loughton for being lazy and narcissistic. This has already been detailed by Paul. Whether true or not those are not the real problems with Mr Loughton. It's his policies. The way he swallowed so many of the disastrous assumptions of the social work establishment - for instance that adoption could only be an option for a small minority of children in care. His fretting before the committee about the number of civil servants being reduced shows completely the wrong attitude.

However the bit of evidence I thought was far more damning for Mr Gove was from another former Minister Nick Gibb. Mr Gibb was nice about Mr Gove. But Mr Gibb mentioned the failure of the Government to ditch some astonishing restrictions on good schools expanding. "If you expand by more than 25% you have to go through quite a complex regulatory process I would have liked to make that easier," said Mr Gibb.

Indeed. A popular school wishing to grow by more than a quarter faces the most severe bureaucratic beating:

Statutory proposals are required for a proposed enlargement of the school premises which would increase the capacity of the school by both a) more than 30 pupils and b) by 25% or 200 pupils (whichever is the lesser).

Statutory proposals are required for the alteration of the upper age limit by a year or more so as to provide sixth form education except in certain instances (please see paragraphs 14-15).

There are 5 statutory stages that must be followed for a statutory proposal:

  • consultation with stakeholders;
  • publication of a statutory notice by the proposer;
  • representation period, normally 4 weeks, but 6 weeks in specified circumstances;
  • decision by the LA in most cases, otherwise by the schools adjudicator; and
  • implementation, if approved.
What sort of madness is this? Why are bureaucrats able to keep bad schools on life support but banning good schools growing? These restrictions must go.


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