Primary School Sizes: 2007 - 2014

The issue of growing numbers in schools has been raised a number of times recently in the media (BBC: Primary school pupil numbers soaring; BBC: More super-size primary schools in population surge; Guardian: Schools must consider double shifting to accommodate growing pupil numbers), with concerns expressed over the growing number of pupils, yet the decreasing number of schools.

At Learning Plus UK, we used the primary school data available from the DfE[1] in order to explore this obvious issue, with our line chart clearly showing the upward trend of pupil numbers and the downward trend of numbers of schools between 2007 and 2014. In particular we sought to discover which regions were being affected more heavily by the population surge.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, London is far ahead of all other regions in terms of number of pupils per school, with a current average of 399 pupils to each primary school compared to an average of 344 (still much higher than any other region’s current figures) in 2007.
Numbers in the South West remain slightly more conservative when compared to other regions: in 2007 there were 192 pupils per primary school; this now stands at 208 pupils per primary school.

The population surge is slightly less pronounced in the North East, with a 7.5% increase in the pupil to school ration since 2007 (currently 244 pupils per primary school), and the situation in the North West is similar with 249 pupils per primary schools following an increase of 8.7% over the last eight years.

Undoubtedly the greatest increases are being seen in the Southern-Eastern regions of England, with increases of 12.4% (South East), 12.8% (East of England) and 16% (London) since 2007.

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A number of suggestions have been put forward to try and tackle this problem, ranging from the obvious, such as building more schools, to the slightly more unusual, such as adopting a ‘shift’ system in order to teach twice as many pupils in a day. However, these solutions are possibly ignoring the less-easily-solved problem of the current teacher shortage.

We’d be interested to know your experience of this issue surrounding pupil numbers in primary schools, whether you’re a parent struggling to find a place for your child, or a teacher facing increasing class sizes. Do you have an idea how this problem can be overcome? Is there a school-system abroad that we could adopt that might help?

To share your thoughts, explore our Big Numbers and join us on Twitter (@learningplusuk), on our Post-16 Learning Forum or LinkedIn group.

[1] Average class sizes. Available from: http://data.gov.uk/dataset/average_class_sizes