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Guidance for headteachers on Net Capacity Assessments of school buildings and Published Admission Numbers (PANs)

Net Capacity

Net capacity assessments are a Department for Education (DfE) tool used by local authorities to assess the physical accommodation of an individual school and differentiate between teaching and non-teaching space(s).

The net capacity of a school is a guide to the number of pupils the school can physically teach, linking with the school’s published admission number (PAN). It uses formulas devised by the DfE and room measurements provided by Derbyshire County Council Property Services colleagues. It is used along with detailed plans of the school, providing an up-to-date record of the use of a school’s accommodation. It is not used for any financial purposes.


  • Admissions – The net capacity assessment, through the net capacity range that it provides, indicates the scope for a school to admit above PAN. This is used by the Admissions team in carrying out appeals.
  • S106/CIL Education housing contributions – Used in responses to consultations on planning applications in order to determine whether sufficient school capacity exists to accommodate new pupils from proposed housing developments.
  • School projects – To provide detailed background information on a school building for the purpose of new projects.
  • Strategic pupil place planning – To undertake our statutory responsibility in ensuring education provision for every child.
  • Central government returns – To provide central government (Department for Education) with information for publication and determination of central education funding.
  • Emergency response – There have been cases where Derbyshire County Council has had to respond to urgent requests for emergency pupil accommodation. Ensuring the net capacity of a school is up-to-date and accurate helps this enormously in being able to react very quickly.

What needs to be measured?

  • all buildings on any site used by a school, owned and maintained by the local authority, governing body, trustees and academies.
  • all non-maintained buildings, particularly if available for 80% plus of the week for use by the school.
  • circulation space.

Measured but excluded areas - non-school and support provision

  • early years and childcare (E)
  • adult learning and skills (A)
  • specially resourced facilities (R)
  • parents or community rooms and chapels (P) or (W)
  • spaces where workplaces are attributed, but physical attributes mean they are not suitable for teaching (U)

Where schools have these additional resources, they are not included in the calculation of the net capacity or net capacity range.

Published Admission Number (PAN) / Indicated Admission Number (IAN)

The net capacity assessment of a school is undertaken by entering information on a spreadsheet which automatically calculates the Indicated Admission Number (IAN) for the school. This is the number of workspaces (informed principally by the number of spaces being used as classrooms) divided by the number of year groups. The net capacity should be in line with the published admission number (PAN). The PAN should reflect the number of pupils the school can accommodate in each year group. For maintained schools, the local authority is the admissions authority and as such, defines the PAN. Any changes to the PAN are agreed through negotiation with the headteacher and governors of the school.

The PAN cannot be lower than the IAN, but it can be higher than the IAN.

If a school admits an intake of pupils outside the normal entry points of Reception and Year 7 (for example, a primary school admits pupils at Year 3 from an infant school, or a secondary school admits external pupils at Year 12), this should be shown as additional number in the PAN.

For further information and advice

Contact your Assistant Development Officer or Jennie McCusker, Development Manager - email:

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