Immigration, Birth Rate Straining UK’s Primary Schools

The current places shortage in British schools has led one authority to consider “time phased working for some schools”, which would see one group of pupils going to school in the morning and another in the afternoon, write Julie Henry and Tom Hadfield at the Telegraph.

Emergency plans to provide thousands of extra primary places from next summer in Bristol, Bradford, Gloucester, Dorset, Reading, Salford, Hertfordshire, Stoke, Devon and a series of London boroughs are being drawn up.

As rising birth rates and immigration puts pressure on the school system, 540,000 additional places nationally will be required by 2018, estimates the Telegraph.

“The official figures are based on a projected increase in primary pupils of 14 per cent from 3.96 million to 4.5 million.”

Margaret Morrissey, spokeswoman for the campaign group Parents Outloud, said:

“If we are to continue to see population growth, either through a rising birth rate or through taking more immigrants, councils must ensure that new schools are written in to their plans. It is no good saying there are a few places at poor schools miles across countryside or cities. Parents want and have a right to a place at a good local school.”

Councils claim that migrant populations are difficult to predict and that plans to provide new schools have been badly affected by the Coalition’s decision to scrap Labour’s £7 billion scheme to rebuild 8,000 primaries, writes Hadfield and Henry.

A minimum of 305 more reception class places are needed next year to ensure all 3,758 four year-olds in the borough find a school. Secondary school places are also needed from next year and until the end of the decade.

The council has drawn up a plan to split schools between the morning and afternoon – which is entirely legal.

“We are making a case directly to the Treasury, but as a last resort, we will consider operating ‘split shifts’,” a council spokesman said. “Using empty MFI stores for schools is not ideal, but we have a responsibility to school our children.”

In other parts of the country, measures to deal with places shortages include adding “bulge” classes to existing schools, erecting Portacabins in the grounds of schools, driving up school rolls and creating so-called “Titan primaries” with upwards of 500 pupils, and even lobbying for increasing class sizes beyond the legal limit of 30, as reported in the Telegraph.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We know that many schools across the country face real concerns about how to provide every child with a school place. We are investing £500 million to meet pressures caused by increased birth rates.”