More than 2,000 new schools must be built by 2020

Aaron Morby 1 year ago

The Government needs to fire-up a massive school building programme to deliver more than 2,000 schools in England by 2020 to meet booming pupil numbers.

Over 24,000 extra classrooms required in the next four years

The depth of the country’s school places crisis has been thrown into the spotlight in new research for public sector procurement specialist Scape Group.

Local authorities now predict the number of primary and secondary school pupils will swell by an extra 729,000 by 2020.

To meet this demand the Government needs a radical rethink of it school building programme. This would include setting new targets to build 1,744 primary schools and 378 secondary schools in the next four years.

This equates to two new schools every day to meet the shortfall. More than 500 of these would be needed in London alone to head off the looming schools crisis.

Mark Robinson, chief executive of Scape Group, said: “The country will soon start to feel the full weight of the impending boom in pupil numbers, and we’re already seeing unprecedented pressure on school places. A radical new wave of school-building must be a top priority for government.”

He added: “The government’s preference for free schools has created uncertainty for local authorities, who are tasked with planning and building new schools, but will not be responsible for running them. Proposals for new grammar schools has further muddied the waters. 

“In a post-Brexit economy, with all of the uncertainty this brings, the construction of new schools must be a top priority for government and local authorities must be given the tools and funding necessary to deliver extra places in time.

“Creative solutions including standardised design, classroom extensions and larger ‘super-schools’, as well as more effective use of land to deliver mixed-use developments, are all options we need to look at to deliver more new schools.”

London, the South East and East of England are set to see the highest growth, while the North East and North West will see more modest increases.

 School Building Challenge: England’s Regions

Regions Extra pupils by 2020 Primary schools  Secondary schools Total needed
London 170,943 421 86 507
East of England 89,198 222 45 267
South East 115,102 291 56 347
West Midlands 74,651 162 42 204
Yorkshire and the Humber 65,512 149 35 184
South West 59,854 150 29 179
East Midlands 52,644 124 28 152
North West 80,588 187 43 230
North East 21,124 38 14 52

The capital will see a 15% increase in primary and secondary school populations by 2020, meaning an additional 170,943 pupils and requiring 507 new schools. Of these, 421 would be the equivalent of 1FE primary schools and 86 would be secondary schools.

Outside of London, Manchester will see a 27% rise in pupil numbers, with almost 19,000 extra primary and secondary pupils by 2020. This will require the equivalent of 57 new schools – 48 primary schools and nine new secondary schools in just four years.

The cities of Bristol, Peterborough, Milton Keynes, Leicester and Nottingham will also see rapid growth requiring new school building. Peterborough’s 21% growth in pupils will require 20 brand new schools, while Milton Keynes’ 19% increase will require 27 new schools. 

The districts of Reading, Slough and Bracknell in London’s commuter belt will also see significant growth as the capital’s growing population spills out across the M25, with pupil numbers rising by 25%, 20% and 18% respectively.  England’s fastest growing boroughs

Local authorities Extra  pupils by 2020 New primary schools New secondary schools Total schools needed
Manchester 18,842 48 9 57
Reading 4,717 13 2 15
Peterborough 6,944 16 4 20
Slough 5,178 11 3 14
Milton Keynes 7,903 24 3 27
Leicester 8,847 19 5 24
Bracknell Forest 3,021 6 2 8
Thurrock 4,354 11 2 13
Nottingham 6,614 17 3 20
Bristol 8,900 21 5 26

Andrew Alsbury, Willmott Dixon education director, said: “The continued and urgent need for a well-planned long-term solution to meet rising school place demand in the face of increasing pressure on capital budgets is one of our biggest challenges over the next decade. It needs a joined-up approach between the public and private sectors, as well as local and central government to bridge the gap.”

The full report, The School Places Challenge, can be downloaded from


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