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Stat of the Week - Drop in pupil numbers 2005-09

Overall pupil numbers continue to fall in the maintained sector, according to the latest figures from the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). Falling rolls means a need for fewer teachers. Between 2005 and 2009, primary schools lost about 130,000 pupils, or a reduction of about 3 per cent in pupil numbers. In the secondary sector, the decline has been nearly 110,000, with the whole of the decline being concentrated in the 11-16 age group. But it is not all bad news. Numbers in sixth forms actually increased by about 35,000 between 2005 and 2009.

Despite the push for inclusion, the number of pupils educated in special schools remained constant through the period between 2005 and 2009, at about 84,500; falling for two years to fewer than 84,000 before rising again over the past two years.

Looking forward, the number of pupils in secondary schools will fall further as the current small age cohorts move through from the primary schools. This will affect job opportunities, especially in 11-16 schools, where the falls will not be cushioned by increasing sixth form numbers for the next couple of years.

There is further reason for optimism in that the number of under-5s in primary schools increased by about 40,000 in the past five years, and the current record birth rate means this rise is set to continue into the foreseeable future. There may be hope for those primary trained teachers currently unable to find a teaching post, and even some of the secondary teachers who want to move to teaching younger pupils. But, England is no more uniform than Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland and there will be different outcomes in different places.

John Howson is director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.

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