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Secondary schools face boom in numbers

Official figures suggest that the number of secondaries that are full, or in excess of capacity, is rising.

Secondary schools are facing a boom in pupils, with numbers set to rise by more than 600,000 over the next few years, according to new predictions.

Forecasts show that the number of England’s secondaries that are full up is already rising, with around one in six currently full, or in excess of capacity, according to data published by the Department for Education (DfE).

School leaders warned that it is “absolutely crucial” that there is accurate planning over the next few years to ensure there are enough school places, in the areas they are needed.

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Pupils at state-funded schools in England

Ministers said that around 825,000 new places have been created since 2010 and almost £6 billion is being pumped into creating more.

Secondary schools are seeing an increase in numbers prompted by a spike in the birth rate in the early 2000s that is now being felt as pupils make their way through the education system.

The latest Government data shows that in 2016/17, the last year for which actual figures are available, there were 3,135,534 pupils of secondary school age in England.

This is forecast to rise to 3,800,004 by 2023/24 – meaning there will be an extra 664,470 secondary-age pupils by this point, compared to 2016/17.

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Secondary schools in England full or in excess of full capacity

The figures also show that there are now 548 secondary schools that are full, or in excess of capacity – 16.2% in total.

This is up from 487 schools (14.4%) in 2016.

The forecasts suggest that primary school pupil numbers may start to plateau beyond 2020/21.

There are 3,826 primaries in England that are full, or in excess of capacity (22.8%), compared to 3,781 (22.5%) in 2016.

DfE statisticians said that according to data provided at the start of May last year, and their analysis, an estimated 79,000 primary places are needed across England to meet demand for the academic year 2021/22 – this equates to between 10,000 and 14,000 a year.

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Primary schools in England full or in excess of full capacity

For secondary schools, an estimated 87,000 places are needed to meet to demand for 2021/22, translating to around 10,000 extra places between 2017/18 and 2018/19 and rising to around 26,000 places needed between 2020/21 and 2021/22.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “There is already a great deal of variation across the country in the availability of school places – with some areas struggling to meet local needs, and other areas with spare capacity.

“With a big increase in the number of secondary school pupils over the next five years it is absolutely crucial that planning is accurate and that the supply of places matches local needs.

“It is also essential that the Government funds schools sufficiently to ensure that they are able to provide all of these young people with the education they need and deserve.”

School system minister Lord Agnew said: “Today’s statistics show that since 2010, we have created 825,000 new school places and 90,000 in the last year alone.

“We want to continue to ensure every child is offered a world-class education, wherever they are growing up and that’s why we are investing £5.8 billion to create even more good school places in the future.”

Richard Watts, chairman of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said: “Secondary school places are becoming increasingly squeezed, with more families facing growing uncertainty when trying to secure their child’s place.

“If we’re to meet the demand for school places then councils should be given back the powers to open new maintained schools and existing academy schools should expand where required.

“No child should be without a place, but councils fear that they will no longer be able to meet the rising costs for the creation of spaces, nor find the space for new classes, if they aren’t given the money or powers to do so.”

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