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Surge in demand for primary schools

Published 11/06/2015

There is a surge in demand for primary school places
There is a surge in demand for primary school places

State primary schools are facing a continuing surge in demand, fuelled in part by a rise in the numbers of pupils from ethnic minorities, official figures suggest.

There are almost 94,000 more children in England's primaries than there were a year ago - a 2.1% increase. This is equivalent to six more pupils in each school.

Minority ethnic pupils made up around 71% of the increase in numbers, according to annual statistics published by the Department for Education.

Secondary schools have also seen an increase over the last 12 months, and are now teaching around 3,370 more students. This is the first rise in five years, the data shows, and comes as pupils move up through the system.

The latest figures, which give a snapshot of the make-up of schools and pupils as of January this year, come amid continuing concerns about pressure on school places and calls for more funding to cope with the growing demand.

Overall, there are 4.5 million youngsters in England's primary schools, including those below the compulsory school age of five, up 93,600 on the same point in 2014.

According to government statisticians, 30.4% of pupils are classed as being of minority ethnic origin, up from 29.5% last year.

"Minority ethnic pupils made up 71% of the increase in the number of pupils in state-funded primary schools", the official document says.

In January last year, there were 1,029,190 minority ethnic youngsters in primaries, and this year there are 1,086,954 - an increase of 57,764. At the same time, the numbers of white British pupils have risen by 23,524. These figures only include pupils at or above compulsory school age.

In state secondaries, just over one in four (26.6%) of students are classed as from a minority ethnic background, up from 25.3% in 2014.

These numbers have soared in recent years, the document says.

"In 2009, less than 20% of pupils in state-funded secondary schools were from minority ethnic backgrounds, so in six years the proportion of pupils in secondary schools from such backgrounds has increased by more than 30% as the increased numbers in primary schools flow through into secondary schools."

The statistics indicate that some primary schools may be expanding in a bid to cope with the demand for places.

There are now 87 primary schools catering to more than 800 youngsters, compared to 77 in 2014 and just 16 in 2010.

At the same time, the numbers of infants in large classes - of 31 or more pupils - has more than trebled on the last five years.

In 2010, there were 31,265 infants in large classes, and as of January this year there were 100,765.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said: "The rise in pupils numbers is no surprise. Sadly the Government has done little to address the issue in a systematic way. The numbers of children in school will continue to rise over the next five years and the Government's plans are just not adequate.

"Unless there's immediate and appropriate funding for new places, an organised approach to making sure new schools are created in the most squeezed areas, and an overhaul of recruitment, there will not be enough classes for children starting in September."

A Department for Education spokesman said: "The average infant class size has remained stable at 27.4 and the number of unlawfully large infant classes has fallen - down 137 compared to 2009 - all despite a small increase in pupil numbers since last year.

"To help schools respond to rising pupils numbers, the Government invested £5 billion between 2011 and 2015 to support local authorities - creating almost half a million new places. On top of that, we have committed to invest a further £7 billion on new school places over the next six years, to support the new school places needed all the way up to September 2021."

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said: "The growing pressures on primary school class sizes should compel the Government to rethink how it is allocating funding for schools. The case is clear: in the early years of primary school, children in classes capped at 30 are more likely to make better progress.

"It cannot make sense for the Government to continue to prioritise money for new free schools in areas with surplus school places when we have more than 100,000 primary pupils being taught in classes of more than 30."

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said one of the key issues is that there are some areas where there is a "desperate shortage" of places.

"That's why we have been urging Government to plan places strategically and mare sure they are not building new schools in areas of surplus."

The statistics also show that almost one in five (19.4%) of primary school children speak English as a second language, up 0.7 percentage points on last year.

In secondary schools, the figure is 15%, also up 0.7 percentage points.

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