Primary school numbers on the rise

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The number of children entering the primary school and nursery systems in England has risen in recent years, with continued increases expected until at least 2018, according to new data.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest applications will increase by eight per cent between 2010 and 2014, with the numbers for 2018 set to be the highest for 50 years. However, secondary school numbers are set to fall by almost 5% by 2014.

This rise could put schools under increasing amounts of financial pressure as limitations in the government's budget may force the abandonment of new school building projects in order to safeguard teachers' jobs.

Any shortfall in places is most likely to be felt in London, where local authorities were forced to set up mobile classrooms and rent church halls last year when insufficient space was available.

Several London boroughs have had to increase the number of classes available for new starters this autumn.

Some local authorities in urban areas have been under increasing pressure trying to cope with higher pupil numbers. This was dealt with by the last government by providing extra funding to ease places, or building extra classrooms.

The trend reflects Britain's growing population, as the Office for National Statistics said the population has increased to almost 62 million. This is due more to the the number of births, rather than the increase in migration.  In 2008-2009 there were 123,000 more births than in the early part of the last decade.

This translates to pupils aged five and six set to increase by 12%, and pupils aged seven to 10 predicted to increase by 6% in the next few years.

A Department for Education spokesman said pupil pressure was a major issue facing the schools system and that tackling it would be a key priority in the autumn's comprehensive spending review. The DfE spokesman said: "We are bringing in radical plans to increase choice for parents and drive up standards, through expanding academies and freeing up new providers to open schools.

"And we are working very closely with local authorities, particularly in London, to ensure that we meet rising demand for school places effectively over coming years."