Councils across the country are planning for a wave of “super-size” schools with between 12 and 16 forms of entry and up to 3,000 pupils, TES can reveal.
Figures supplied under the Freedom of Information Act show that at least 17 local authorities – including shire counties and big cities – will have secondaries with 12 forms of entry or more once pupil numbers hit a peak over the next few years.
Eight of the “titan” schools will have between 13 and 16 forms of entry, and almost all of these schools will have more than 2,000 students. Two of the secondaries will cater for around 3,000 pupils each, the figures reveal.
Asked if he was concerned about such growth, schools minister Nick Gibb told TES: “If you look at Shanghai, their schools are very large and they produce some very high standards of education.” One of Shanghai’s top state schools, Shanghai High, has more than 3,000 pupils.
But Mr Gibb added: “The danger of creating schools too large is they may struggle to attract parents.” Expansion must be balanced with “whether they can be confident they can maintain good behaviour and good academic standards”, he said.
Being big ‘has advantages’
Last month, TES revealed plans by Barking and Dagenham Council in East London for a 16-form-entry school to cope with a dramatic rise in pupil numbers. The new figures show that titan schools are being planned all over the country, as councils try to find more than 80,000 extra secondary places they say will be needed in the next four years.
Exmouth Community College in Devon is set to be one of the largest schools, with 2,860 students and 15 forms of entry on one school campus by 2018. At present it has 2,400 students. Headteacher Tony Alexander told TES the school had 163 full-time equivalent teachers, two staffrooms and four restaurant areas. “Although there are some disadvantages to being such a large school, the advantages outweigh them,” he said.
“We are able to provide a broad curriculum that other schools could not afford. And we have a wide range of children with different qualities and different attributes, which can only be good…The main disadvantage is that, as a head, I can’t know all the children individually.”
Walton High in Milton Keynes is set to expand to 16 forms of entry and 3,000 pupils over two sites. And Bitterne Park School in Southampton plans to have up to 13 forms of entry by September 2017. Headteacher Susan Trigger said the new school building would be “one of the largest in the country”. “It’s a figure of eight with a central community area,” she added, “so there are no dark corridors and the pupils won’t get lost easily.”
Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said school expansion did not tend to affect standards.
In a town near you?
Barking and Dagenham Council in East London has proposed a 16-form-entry school, while Devon County Council will have a 15-form-entry secondary, TES enquiries reveal.
Southampton, Nottinghamshire, Central Bedfordshire, Croydon and Birmingham councils all told TES they would have schools with 13 forms of entry or more.
Warwickshire, Rotherham, Caerphilly, East Riding of Yorkshire, Newcastle, Northumberland, Staffordshire and Brighton and Hove will have schools with 12 forms of entry by the time pupil numbers peak.
This is an edited version of an article in the 9 October 2015 edition of TES. To read the full article, subscribe to TES