Removing planning obstacles
It is no secret that the DFE is under huge pressure to get the Academies initiative up and running .
Indeed most staff seem to be involved in some aspect of Academy work. The Academies Bill has received its Third Reading in the Lords and will shortly be heading for the Commons .There is huge pressure within the Department to get a substantial number of new Academy schools up and running by late autumn. It’s a tough call though. Michael Gove made it clear, when in opposition, that he wanted obstacles removed to setting up new schools. One such obstacle was planning permission and regulations which made it very difficult to set up new schools. Work is now taking place across government to make it easier for local communities to set up new schools. This will include allowing a wider range of sites to be used as schools without the need for change of use consent following a public consultation on the proposals over the summer. Some building contractors are already looking at how to make this work. Lessons have been learned here from Charter schools in the States and free schools in Sweden which have opened in former shops and apartments. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will issue guidance, before the Summer Recess, to local planning authorities on handling planning applications for new schools. These measures will be taken forward separately from other changes to the planning system. The Department for Education and Partnerships for Schools are looking at how the school premises regulations and other legislation and guidance which affects all schools buildings can be simplified. The Government aims to work closely with those setting up the initial free schools to consider what barriers they face and whether other measures can be brought forward in due course to make it easier to set up a school. One big challenge of course will be Health and Safety.