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Making best use of your existing Special School Estate

Special School Sufficiency Assessment


Unlike primary and secondary schools, there is
currently no established methodology to assess the net capacity of special schools.

For many years there have been concerns across the education sector that the SEND population is increasing at a greater pace than within the mainstream estate.

To add to this, due to the changing demographics within the SEND population in relation to primary need, severity, age ranges, pupil location and numbers; it is very difficult for Local Authorities to forecast demand upon their existing estates.

As a result of these 2 factors, Central Government capital funding for expansion has been limited over recent years, which in many instances has resulted in considerable overcrowding of the SEND estate.

Over the last 4.5 years 1st Planner has developed methodologies and processes that both forecast SEND demand as well as assess the net capacity of special schools based on the age range, primary need and severity of their existing pupil population.

Thankfully the DfE have recognised the increase in SEND demand and as a result are making considerable revenue budgets available to every Local Authority to facilitate a strategic review of their high needs provision.

The DfE are also making capital funding available to expand existing special schools and for the creation of new SEND free schools where required. 

Prior to commencing the sufficiency reviews, data requirements, reporting formats and the programmes for the work are agreed.

Sample documents are completed to ensure that standards are agreed with the Client and a benchmark established prior to the main body of the work being completed.

The first stage of the process is to collect detailed pupil data for each of the students who attend the special schools that are to be surveyed. This information includes unique pupil numbers, date of birth, primary/secondary need, severity of need, postcode and class group.

CAD plan information is sourced from the Client and checked for consistency against aerial/GIS data and compared to any Room Lists that are provided.

Site visits are then completed to review all of the information on site and to collect any that may be missing/inconsistent at the point of survey.

The collected information is then utilised to produced visual heat maps of the rooms that demonstrate their use, with detailed reports being generated to compare this against the Building Bulletin 104 standards. This analysis takes the number, need and severity of the specific pupils within each class and the way in which their curriculum is being delivered into account.

Once all of the surveys and reports have been completed, all of the collated information and results of the analysis are imported into a database. This information is then presented as a consolidated report across the Local Authority and utilised to identify where there is either opportunity for additional pupils or whether the existing facilities are over capacity.

Information from the SEND forecasts are then applied to identify medium to long term threats and opportunities from which commissioning and
developments strategies can be developed and funding applications made. 

Client Testimonial
Case Study
City of Wolverhampton Council
Detailed review of the Sufficiency of 7 Special Schools against the DfE's Building Bulletin 104 space standards.
The exercise was combined with a detailed SEND pupil place planning exercise.
Outcomes & Achievements
  • 89 Surplus Places against Commissioned Number.

  • 65,000m² of Surplus External Space.

  • 5,500m² of Surplus Internal Space.

  • 277 Potential Additional Pupil Places Found.

"The partnership between the City of Wolverhampton Council and 1st Planner has successfully supported our evidenced based approach to school place planning. The series of bespoke products provided by 1st Planner offer a great starting point to both maximise the use of existing facilities and support the development of future plans."

(Tom Knott, School Organisation Manager, City of Wolverhampton Council)

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