Pass on the lessons of falling rolls

4th July 2003 at 01:00
"Falling rolls" - remember them? In 1964 we had a record high of nearly a million births in the United Kingdom. By the middle of the 1970s this had fallen by a third. The result was over a decade of devastation in the 1970s and 80s, as falling pupil numbers hit first primary schools and then secondaries.

Some schools were closed down, others merged with a neighbour. There were terrible problems in villages that lost their school, and sometimes their bus service as well, leading to fears that they would become an oldies' ghetto.

In cities the drop was made even worse if it coincided with slum clearance.

When two schools were merged, the results could be positive or disastrous, depending on how well pupils, parents and teachers adapted.

The bad news is that a similar situation is now upon us once more.

Birthrates have tumbled again recently, so falling rolls will hit primary and secondary schools for many years to come. The good news is that heads and teachers who remember what happened last time can actually be a help.

I am going to compile a report based on the experiences of people who have had to cope with falling rolls, so we can learn from those who have direct experience.

Do you have a story to tell? What would you advise people to do to minimise problems? What worked well, and what were the errors?

This is a golden opportunity to bring together professional knowledge on an issue of great national importance. Send your experiences and advice in a maximum of 500 words (or it goes in the shredder) to fallingrolls@tes.co.uk

I will then compile a report to send to the Government, and from time to time interesting experiences or advice will appear in The TES.

Professor Ted Wragg University of Exeter Exeter, Devon

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