Sharp rise in secondary school rolls as teacher numbers fall

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: iStock

The number of students in England’s state-funded secondary schools has risen by 29,670 in the last year.

It is the third year in a row that rolls have increased – and with primary school numbers also continuing to rise, secondary schools can expect further increases in the coming years.

Statistics from the Department for Education (DfE) also show that secondary school class sizes have risen again, as have the percentage of classes with 31 to 35 pupils.

In total, as of January 2017, there are 3,223,090 secondary pupils and 4,689,660 primary pupils in the education system in England. The figures come from the DfE’s latest statistical bulletin, published last week. Across all schools, there are 110,000 more pupils than a year ago.

It comes on top of teacher workforce statistics published last month that revealed a drop of 2,700 in the number of full-time teachers working in secondary schools. Between November 2015 and November 2016 teacher numbers fell from 210,900 to 208,200.

It means that there are now 17.6 pupils for every teacher – up from 17.4 in 2015.

The latest statistics show that the average class size in a secondary school is up to 20.8 from 20.4 in January 2016 and 20.1 in January 2015.

The percentage of classes that have between 31 and 35 pupils has also been increasing since 2015 and now stands at 7.1 per cent.

The figures reflect recent survey findings from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) showing that 80 per cent of respondents have had to increase class sizes in their schools due to funding challenges.

General secretary Geoff Barton said: “Funding cuts have led to increased class sizes because schools have had to reduce staff numbers and reorganise classes among fewer teachers. Larger classes are more difficult to manage, mean an increased workload on staff, and make it harder to provide feedback and support to pupils.

“These statistics provide yet more evidence of the pressing need for the government to make a greater investment in the future of our young people. Without that investment we are likely to see class sizes rise further, as well as more cuts to courses, activities and student support services.”

Elsewhere, the DfE figures show that the proportion of pupils claiming free school meals has been declining since 2013. The FSM percentage now stands at 14.1 per cent of primary pupils and 12.9 per cent of secondary students – this is the lowest level in any year since 2001, when this information was first collected.

This is despite the fact that four million children are now thought to be living in poverty after a rise of 100,000 was recorded in official statistics earlier this year. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has previously estimated that child poverty will rise to as many as five million by the year 2020.

Schools, Pupils and Their Characteristics: January 2017, DfE, June 2017: http://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/schools-pupils-and-their-characteristics-january-2017


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