'More than 24,000 extra classrooms needed' as school population booms
More than 2,000 new schools are needed within the next four years to cope with rising pupil numbers, according to an analysis published today.
The projections are based on Department for Education figures showing pupil numbers are set to increase by 8.6 per cent in primary schools and 12 per cent in secondaries by 2020.
Today’s report says that this means that local authorities will have to find space for 12,209 additional primary classrooms, equating to 1,744 single-form entry primary schools with 30 pupils per class.
A further 12,078 secondary classrooms, or 378 new secondary schools, will be needed to match the rising numbers, claims the report by construction firm Scape Group. In total, this means 24,287 classrooms and 2,122 schools are required, it says.
Mark Robinson, chief executive of Scape Group, said: “The country will soon start to feel the full weight of the impending boom in pupil numbers, and we’re already seeing unprecedented pressure on school places.
“A radical new wave of school-building must be a top priority for government.”
The picture is slightly less stark when the figures are rebased to reflect the average school sizes contained in separate DfE statistics published in June.
The DfE figures show the average primary school has 275 pupils, suggesting 1,331 extra schools are needed.
The average secondary school has 939 pupils, which would suggest another 385 schools were needed, without existing buildings being extended or refurbished to absorb the projected increase.
Richard Watts, chairman of the Local Government Association's children and young people board, said councils needed powers to open new maintained schools or to compel academies to expand to make sure every child has a place.
He said: "Councils have a statutory duty to ensure every child has a school place available to them but find themselves in the difficult position of not being able to ensure schools, including academies, expand."
Finding suitable sponsors with the capacity to take on the running of a successful new school is also proving a challenge, he said.
Schools needed to play their part too, Cllr Watts said, adding: “If academies are not willing to expand, then powers to create new schools should be returned to local authorities themselves if they are unable to secure high quality free school sponsors in their communities."
The need for school places is most acute in London, the South East and East of England, the Scape Group’s analysis shows.
In London, the number of secondary and primary school pupils is set to grow by 15 per cent, to 170,943 in total.
Responding to the story, a Department for Education spokesperson said:
“We are delivering good quality school places to ensure every child has an excellent education that allows them to reach their full potential.
" Our latest data shows that nearly 600,000 additional pupil places were created between May 2010 and May 2015, and we are investing £7 billion in new places up to 2021.
"Thanks to that hard work and investment, 1.4 million more pupils are now in good or outstanding schools than in 2010."