How is government responding to increase in pupil numbers?
Back in July, the UK Government published its latest national pupil projections. It suggested that primary school numbers would rise by a modest 1.9% between this year and 2021, at which point they were predicted to level off.
The number of secondary school pupils was set for a much sharper rise, however, as children currently in primary schools continue through the school system. The number of full-time pupils up to the age of 15 is predicted to grow by 320,000 during the same period, an increase of 11.4%.
In April, Education Secretary Justine Greening announced that the government would be injecting £2.4bn into the school system to help cope with increasing demand. According to the Department for Education (DfE), this capital investment will help to create 600,000 more school places, as well as funding expansions or improvements for thousands of school buildings up and down the country.
The £2.4bn includes £980m of funding for local authorities aimed at creating an initial 60,000 extra school places across 2019-2020. The other £1.4bn or so is earmarked for schools, academies and local authorities to “invest in improving the condition of the school estate.”
The government said that the £2.4bn investment was part of a wider £7bn pledge across the course of the current parliament. It said that, along with investment in free schools, this should be enough to provide 600,000 extra places by 2021.
Greening said: “Our Plan for Britain is to build a fairer society, with a good school place available for every child.”
The National Association of Head Teachers said the investment failed to address funding problems for basic running costs such as staffing, however. A more recent report by the National Audit Office (NAO) also warned schools were struggling to recruit or retain enough teachers to deal with rising pupil numbers.