Decision details

Phase 1 Pupil Place Planning

Decision Maker: Children, Young People & Education Committee

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Is Key decision?: Yes

Is subject to call in?: Yes


The purpose of the report is to outline the recommendations arising out of phase 1 of the pupil place planning review.

In March 2021, the Children Young People and Education Committee endorsed the Pupil Place Planning Strategy 2021 -2026. This Strategy set out a planned framework for the review of school places in both primary and secondary mainstream schools over the next 5 years. Phase 1 of the primary phase of the review commenced in March 2021 looking at small planning areas in and around Birkenhead, specifically: Beechwood; Central Birkenhead; North Birkenhead; South Birkenhead; Noctorum; Prenton.

A detailed review framework and process has been undertaken and has included information gathering, stakeholder discussion and parent/carer engagement. This has culminated in a series of findings and recommendations as set out in Findings Report at Appendix 1.

Recommendations relating to both the Diocese of Shrewsbury (Catholic) and the Diocese of Chester (Church of England) have been presented, discussed and supported as well as proposals relating to Academy Trusts. This has demonstrated the strength in partnership working and collaboration across the education sector which will be harnessed as we move forward as a local education partnership. Fundamental to the work has been adherence to the principles outlined. These are the drivers for change and are intrinsically aligned to the ‘Brighter Futures’ priority in the Wirral Plan 2021-2026. The work has already been captured as a strategic driver within the Plan and this report and recommendations form part of its delivery. This is a key decision as it affects residents from two or more wards


Resolved – That

(1) the outcome of phase 1 of the Pupil Place Planning review regarding small planning areas: Beechwood, Central Birkenhead, North Birkenhead, South Birkenhead, Noctorum and Prenton as outlined in the Findings report attached at appendix 1 be noted.

(2) recommendation 1 that the Diocese of Shrewsbury decommission existing teaching space in St Anne’s Primary School and repurpose for alternative use to reduce the overall capacity of the school be approved.

(3) recommendation 2 that in principle agreement is given for the establishment of a new school in the small planning area of North Birkenhead to meet the demand for new school places over the next 15 years be approved. This will be the subject of future reports for members consideration as more details are developed.

(4) recommendation 3 to reduce Pupil Admission Numbers at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School as agreed by the Diocese of Shrewsbury and Holy Family Multi Academy Trust (MAT) be approved.

(5) recommendation 4 to reduce Pupil Admission Numbers at Christchurch Church of England (CE) Birkenhead as agreed by the Diocese of Chester be approved.

(6) recommendation 5 relating to Woodchurch Road Primary as outlined in the report ‘Admission arrangements for community and voluntary controlled primary and secondary schools and the co-ordinated admission schemes for 2023-24’ as considered and approved by the Children, Young People and Education Committee at its meeting 31 January 2022 be noted.

(7) a formal consultation on recommendation 6 regarding the amalgamation of St Peter’s Catholic Primary School and St Paul’s Catholic Primary School be undertaken. This would involve closure of both schools and opening of a new combined school on one site. Pupils from both schools would be guaranteed a place at the single school.

(8) a formal consultation on recommendation 7 regarding the amalgamation of Manor Primary and Hillside Primary commencing 9th May 2022 be undertaken. This would involve closure of both schools and opening of a new combined school on one site. Pupils from both schools would be guaranteed a place at the single school. In line with statutory guidance, this recommendation requires a formal consultation.


Reasons for the decision:

As the responsible authority for maintained schools, it is important that the Council is managing both surplus and demand for pupil places in line with its statutory responsibilities and to ensure that schools can provide high quality education, are efficiency and viable and provide the best possible education support to meet children and young people’s needs.


It is important that the Council demonstrates its support for the work and proposals considered and agreed by the Dioceses who are important partners in supporting education outcomes for Wirral children.


The recommendations outlined have been identified following a rigorous, transparent and equitable review programme which has sought to engage stakeholders throughout. Schools have had opportunity to consider and comment on the information gathered. The principles have been adhered to and remain fundamental in guiding the development of the proposals.

Alternative options considered:

Do nothing: There is a strong case for change. Population changes and local projections are evidencing that surplus is growing in schools. This can have a detrimental impact on school viability as well as how pupils are supported in their education. Failure to understand the implications of this and set out a planned and managed programme of change may result in more significant, unanticipated financial and reputational consequences for Wirral.


Alternative review framework: The current review framework for pupil place planning in primary schools is structured around small planning areas. They have been established for many years and have formed the basis of previous reviews of this nature. They are also used by the Department for Education for monitoring and reporting purposes. The review framework is based on looking at pupil projections for the small area which enables a more strategic view of places across the area (rather than primarily looking at specific schools). An alternative framework, such as reviewing pupil places for the whole borough at the same time would be unfeasible given the scale and number of primary schools in Wirral.


In relation to the specific proposals:

North Birkenhead small planning area – one other potential option which was explored and discounted was to increase capacity in the existing schools in the small planning area. However, given the projected level of demand within the area, due to the major housing developments outlined in the Local Plan, this would not be feasible.

Central Birkenhead small planning area – one option for this area was to look at more significant changes such as amalgamation/school closure to address the surplus. However, given that the area has several larger schools with capacity over 210 and Pupil Admission Numbers (PAN) over 30, it was considered that a reduction of PAN at the three schools identified would help to reduce surplus without the need for more significant action.

Noctorum and Beechwood small planning areas – Unlike Central Birkenhead, the schools in these small planning areas are already at minimum capacity and Pupil Admission Numbers of 30 or below. One option suggested was to reduce capacity and PAN further in these schools. However, considering statutory guidance and Department for Education good practice, it is suggested this would not be an effective course of action to take given that it would have the potential to significantly impact on the viability of the schools.

Report author: Hannah Myers

Publication date: 11/03/2022

Date of decision: 10/03/2022

Decided at meeting: 10/03/2022 - Children, Young People & Education Committee

Effective from: 17/03/2022

Accompanying Documents: