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
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
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 www.scapegroup.co.uk/research