Another week and another article appears in the national press about the huge projected rise in the number of people of school age. The current demands being placed on the education sector requires serious debate. A clear and focused plan surely must be put in place to address workload issues, increasing student numbers and the fact that spending per pupil in real terms is set to fall dramatically in the years ahead.
Bursting at the seams
Official figures have suggested that we’re in the process of a major population boom, with 730,000 more children of school age by 2020 than there were in classrooms last year. What will the impact be on schools and teacher workloads if the current situation doesn’t change? According to the Department for Education, they’re well aware of and are already addressing the problem. A spoke person said that ‘local authorities are creating thousands more places in the coming years, with 600,000 places created in the past five years’.
How many new schools?
There’s rising tension with recent media reports suggesting that hundreds of extra schools have to be built in England to cope with the growing population. Scape, an organisation which advises local authorities, says that 24,287 more classrooms are required. This equates to more than 2,000 new schools! What’s more, if we look at the current teacher-student ratio of 1 teacher for every 18 pupils, this means schools will need to find an additional 32,000 teachers. At a time when more highly skilled teachers are leaving the profession than ever before. Has the government really allocated enough money to meet the foretasted rise in pupil numbers?
The current education budget stands at about £102 billion a year, but this has only seen marginal growth of 5% in the last 5 years. Schools and teachers are already having to go above and beyond the call of duty, carrying out their daily tasks within far tighter financial constraints. This money has to stretch across more than 24,288 state funded schools who admirably oversee the education of more than 8.56 million pupils every single year. Quite a feat!
Financially at least, the future looks bleak. With more than 1 million additional students due to enter the system over the next decade, schools are expected to have a £4.6 billion budget shortfall by 2019. This equates to an 8% real terms decline in spending per pupil. What’s more, these additional students will have to be taught somewhere, with those within the sector already commenting on the class size issue.
Mary Bousted, the general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, not too long ago stated ‘there is a limit to how far existing schools can expand. Many are already using school halls, music rooms and gyms for classrooms and building over their playing fields to accommodate extra children. Children are being taught in Portakabins and increasingly large classes, and until the government tackles the lack of school places these problems will get worse’.
Is this really fair? Do you believe class sizes have a direct impact on the quality of education students receive and on overall their attainment?
Let us have your thoughts!
This whole debate might not be as trivial as it first appears on paper. The growing population is a major concern not only for the education system but the country as a whole. How do you think schools up and down the country are going to cope with the large rise in pupils? Is your school experiencing any challenges with current pupil numbers? Let us have your thoughts below. We can’t wait to read them!