Schools struggle with demand for pupil places


With pupil numbers set to rise, new data suggests that at least 12,300 schools in England would be unable to meet the additional demand for pupil places with their current buildings, budget and facilities.

The data from The Key reveals that 59% of schools (which equates to 14,347 schools in England) received more applications for places this academic year than the number of pupils they could accommodate. Forty-one per cent received up to 50% more, and one in 10 received almost twice as many applications as available spaces.

The findings, which are based on a survey of 1,188 school leaders, outline how 86% of schools who faced an extra demand for places believe that meeting such needs with their current budget, buildings and facilities would be difficult - 58% stated it would be ‘very difficult’.

Lack of space for additional buildings (25%), insufficient school budgets (22%) and school buildings not being fit for purpose (19%) were the main obstacles for those who would find it difficult to meet the demand – ahead of challenges related to staffing. These concerns are compounded by a common expectation that budget pressures and lack of funding will be the biggest challenge for schools over the next 12 months.

At the same time, the report indicates that nearly 16% of schools received fewer applications for places than they could provide for in this academic year, which brings its own budget implications for those affected.

The rates of over and undersubscription varied by region, too. London had the highest proportion of oversubscribed schools – almost seven in 10 (69%) – and one of the lowest rates of undersubscription (12%). In contrast, the south west had one of the highest proportions of undersubscribed schools – almost one in five (19%) – and one of the lowest rates of oversubscription (52%).

While the pressure for pupil places is presently being felt more at the primary level, with three in five primary school leaders (60%) stating their school was oversubscribed, secondary schools are not far behind – with more than half (52%) reporting being oversubscribed for the 2015/16 academic year. With the number of children entering the school system rising, a greater proportion of secondary schools may feel the squeeze in the current admissions round (the results of which are due today) and in coming years, as pupils work their way through the system.

The report also shows that the pressure for primary schools doesn’t end with the application figures – almost half (45%) of primary school leaders have had to respond to upset parents whose children didn’t get their first-choice placement at the school, compared to one in five (20%) leaders in secondary schools. 

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