Primary school admissions 'crisis' as birthrates soar
The equivalent of more than 2,000 new primary schools will be needed within the next eight years to cope with a massive increase in pupil numbers, figures suggest.
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
Published: 6:09PM GMT 18 Mar 2010
Places need to be found for almost 550,000 extra pupils by 2018, it was disclosed.
The projected rise is believed to be down to a sharp increase in birthrates combined with an influx of immigrants in some areas.
Many councils are already struggling to cope with a recent surge in school applications.
Local authorities in parts of London, the West Midlands and south-west of England were forced to install mobile classrooms and educate children in church halls last year because of a shortage of space.
In the capital alone, schools had a shortfall of around 2,250 places in 2009.
It is feared the pressure will grow significantly in coming years as the number of five-year-olds entering the state school system in England continues to grow.
Last year, MPs said that the extra pressure on primary places was a direct result of mass immigration into the UK.
The Cross Party Group on Balanced Migration said the number of births to foreign mothers increased by 64 per cent in the last eight years. At the same time, birthrates among UK families increased by only six per cent.
It accused the Government of being in denial about the consequences of their losing control of our borders.
According to projections published yesterday by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, there are currently 3,992,000 pupils aged under 11 in state-funded nursery and primary schools.
It said numbers were expected to grow year-on-year to 4,541,000 in 2018 an additional 549,000. It will be the biggest number of pupils in the system since the late-70s.
The rise would be equivalent to around 2,300 average-sized primary schools, or an additional 18,300 classes of 30 pupils.
It comes despite the fact that hundreds of primaries have been shut over the last decade as local councils are under orders to cut schools with large numbers of empty desks.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: We have said for a long time that it is short-sighted of the Government to close any school premises.
Earlier this year, it emerged that councils including Bristol, Cambridgeshire, Leeds, Sheffield and the London boroughs of Barnet, Brent, Bromley and Kingston-upon-Thames were planning to expand primary school places this year.
The increase in primary pupils comes despite a projected drop in the number of secondary school children from 2,694,000 to 2,467,000 over the same period. Numbers are expected to rise after that as the increase in the primary school population feeds through.
Vernon Coaker, the Schools Minister, said local authorities had a responsibility to assess future population growth to meet parental demand.
He said 1.5 billion had been invested in areas with above-average increases in pupil numbers since 2008, including 300m handed to 34 councils last November.
The school population always will and always has fluctuated, he said.
Birthrates have been rising since 2001 so its no surprise that projected nursery and primary numbers are now going up, while secondary numbers are actually now going down reversing the trend of the last decade.
By law it is for local authorities to assess future population growth robustly to fully meet parental demand.
The bottom line there is no nationwide shortage of places in primary schools with half a million surplus places across the country.
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