Local Authorities retain their statutory duty to ensure appropriate planning of school places. However, the most recent Education Act states that when a new school is required, the LA should seek proposals for a Free School or Academy as its first step. There are two ways in which Local Authorities can therefore meet their statutory duty by expressing a need for a new school.
If a Local Authority needs a new school, and is able to supply the building and capital needed, they can run a competition to establish their preferred provider for that school. The LA will then notify the Secretary of State of their preferred provider, and if the Secretary of State agrees, that provider will then open the school. For more information please see here: http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/leadership/schoolorganisation/f00209212/establishing-new-school
If a Local Authority is unable to provide a building, or the necessary capital funding, the Targeted Basic Need Programme provides additional support to LAs with the greatest pressure on places. These LAs will be able to bid for funding, from the DfE, to establish a new Academy or Free School.
If successful in their bids, LAs will be notified in June 2013 and they will then be required to run a competition to select a good quality provider using the LA Academy Presumption Process. It will be for the LA to determine the exact timetable for the competition but the DfE would expect it to happen so that all new schools could open by September 2015. Please see here for more information about the Targeted Basic Need programme: http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/adminandfinance/schoolscapital/a00222248/targeted-basic-need-programme
Local Authorities are able to give their support more informally to Free School applications being made to the DfE as part of the annual Free School application rounds. Some Free School proposers are likely to approach their LA for support. Special and AP Free School proposers need to show support from their LA as part of their evidence of demand. The LA can choose which applications they choose to support.