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LAs use a wide variety of methods to project pupil numbers in their area as a whole, and for each constituent school. The different methods entail a broadly similar process that involves taking the current total number of pupils and adding or subtracting the net totals of children respectively entering and leaving the school system.
Figure 3.1 illustrates that the overall process involves three main tasks. These are to:
See the core tasks in this process. (3.12)
Since the overall projection process is similar in all authorities, it is reasonable to ask whether a standard method for projecting pupil numbers could be used across the country?
The answer, however, would be "no", for the simple reason that each authority operates under different circumstances, and the projection methods used must be tailored to suit these if they are to be successful. For example, it would be appropriate for a LA that had experienced a steady fall in its population for several years and expected this to continue, to use several years of historic data to forecast future pupil rolls. It would be inappropriate for another authority to do the same, if there was evidence that its population dip had reached its lowest point and small rises were now expected. For this authority to rely heavily on past trends when making projections could lead to a serious underestimation of pupil numbers.
All staff who make pupil projections should understand the context in which these are being made and make sure that the projection methods they use are appropriate for it. A context checklist is included with this guidance to help LAs and schools carry out the projection process effectively. (2.1)
The main objective of the projection process is to provide individual schools with reasonably reliable projections of their pupil numbers (see below for more about this). It is good practice to make an overall projection of pupil numbers for the whole area, as it provides a control total against which the sum of the projections for the individual schools can be compared, and can be used when the LA is planning other services for children.
The process for making projections of pupil numbers for an individual school is similar to that used when projecting for the authority as a whole, but at school level there are more variables that affect "entries" and "exits", and interpretation of data and findings can be more complex. For example:
Accurate projection of pupil numbers can be made more difficult by one-off events, which can result in a lot of pupil movement between schools, such as a new housing development or the merging of two schools into one.
It is much more difficult to make accurate projections at school level, than at the level of the LA as a whole.
See the equivalent of figure 3.1 for primary, middle and secondary schools (Figures 3.1a; 3.1b; 3.1c).
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