Freedom of Information response reveals forecast doesn't exist

A few weeks ago we submitted this Freedom of Information request to Richmond Council:

The Council consultation on the redevelopment of the Richmond College site states, with reference to the proposed new secondary school: “the Council’s forecast, taking into account as far as it can, the likely establishment of further free schools, suggests that further significant provision may be needed by September 2017”. The FAQs also refer to “the Council’s pupil forecasts”. But I could not find a copy of these forecasts anywhere on the site.

The most recent I can find is the forecast issued to the Overview & Scrutiny Committee in Oct 2011 (and included in the Jan-Mar  2012 consultation on the use of the Clifden Road site). But that forecast cannot be the one referred to in the RuTC site consultation as it includes a number of assumptions that are out of date, notably 100 free school places in 2013 and a new community school opening in 2016.

Please provide full details of the secondary school supply/demand forecast referred to in the RuTC site consultation.

This was the response they provided on 26th Feb 2013:

The Year 7 pupil forecasts will be updated following (a) the initial allocations of places on 1st March, when we will be able to gauge the extent of likely spare capacity within the nine secondary schools in September 2013; and (b) the announcements in May of the Secretary of State’s decisions as to which, if any, local free school proposals have been approved for opening in September 2014. A report containing revised forecasts may be submitted for Education and Children’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee in due course.

There are no revised forecasts that are available for you to view further to those already in the public domain regarding the use of the Clifden Road site.

However, you may wish to see the attached report that provides more contextual information relating to school admissions and demand for each of the secondary schools.

Our conclusion is that while the Council's proposals for Richmond College redevelopment make sense, their consultation documentation is misleading.  It says the proposals are on the basis of a forecast of the need for secondary school places.  However there is no up-to-date forecast.

The only forecast they have was issued in Oct 2011, and produced to justify the decision to go ahead with the Catholic school at Clifden Road. It assumed a new Free School opening in 2013 and a new community school opening in 2016, but neither of those is happening.  The earliest a secondary Free School could now open is 2014 and the community school (at Richmond College) is now planned for 2017. The 2011 forecast also made a number of other questionable assumptions, including a big decline in the number of borough school places taken up by out of borough children.  

We'll make sure we examine the promised new forecast when it becomes available, inline with our core aim to "hold the council to account for the secondary school supply/demand forecasts used to justify giving the Clifden Road site for an exclusive Catholic school".