England's Department of Education has released a report that estimates that the number of children enrolled in primary and nursery schools will grow by nearly 20% over the next 8 years. This means that by 2020 the school enrollment could reach numbers as high as those in the 1970s. The expected growth is just a continuation of a trend that begun several years ago, and that has already forced many primary and nursery schools to make adjustments to accommodate a growing student body.
According to The Daily Telegraph, schools in some districts, and in particular London, West Midlands and the South West, have already made use of such tools as mobile classrooms to increase space. Some schools have taken over additional real estate such as nearby church halls and social clubs. Councils all over England have also called on the government to ease the restrictions on class sizes currently in force throughout the country to allow more students to enroll in the schools.
The latest figures reveal that there are currently 4,114,000 children in England's primary and nursery schools. By 2020, this is projected to rise to 4,850,000 – a rise of 18%. In the next three years alone, pupil numbers in these schools are predicted to increase by 8%, equivalent to an extra 326,000 children, the figures showed.
At the same time, pupil numbers in secondary schools are expected to fall until 2015, when they will start to rise as primary-age pupils move up.
The rise in primary and nursery school pupils has been fueled by an increasing birth rate and the effects of immigration.
The growth in the number of students is not expected to be uniform throughout England, however. According to the data collected by the Office for National Statistics, few will see an increase as large as that in London, where the primary age population will go up by 18%. In contrast, the number of students in the north east and south west regions of England are expected to only grow by 9%.
Stephen Twigg, Labour's Shadow Education Secretary, warned that there was a "crisis" in primary places.
"Many schools are at breaking point with pupils potentially being taught in warehouses and empty shops," he said.
"Labour have been warning the Government for months about the huge shortfall in places.
"But instead of addressing this crisis head on, the Government has slashed the capital budget by nearly two thirds and are creating free schools, many of which are in areas where there isn't a demand for extra places or from parents."