Wednesday, February 16, 2011

In the news: demographic pressures and failing secondary schools

A "youth bulge" may have been at work in the Tunisian and Egyptian revolts but demography has political implications closer to home. Since the turn of the millennium many education providers have been conscious of demographic decline. Now there is a recognition that rising birth rates are starting to feed into demand for primary school places as an extra 100,000 babies every year are fed into the equation.

This week the quality media has turned its attention to the longer term and post-11 places.

The Financial Times reports that secondary schools will be affected by both rising birth rates and slower rates of migration of middle-class families out of cities. The FT analysis of official projections indicates that an extra 80,000 secondary school places will be needed in England by 2016/17 in areas of population growth. However, in those areas, there is space for only 50,000 students at schools that meet government targets. In addition there are currently 6,000 places available in schools that do not meet the government’s minimum “floor standards”. This might become a major political issue unless new places are created through the free schools and other policies.

The ever excellent Guardian DataBlog maps the location of the current surplus capacity. It’s a shocking statistic that 225 schools - 7% of England's school estate - are more than a third empty and most of these have poor GCSE results. (Off course some may have poor results due to challenging circumstances but the persistence of such concentration of educational disadvantage remains a serious social issue.)

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