Pupil numbers in England’s schools are predicted to shrink by 12 per cent over the next 10 years, after the government revised down its predictions in the face of “notably lower birth projections”.
New statistics published by the Department for Education show the government is expecting the state school population to shrink by almost a million children, from 7,859,000 this year to 6,915,000 by 2032.
The decrease is much larger than was predicted last year. In 2021, the government said it expected to have 7,269,000 pupils in the system by 2032, meaning its prediction has been revised down by almost 5 per cent in just one year.
The difference is “primarily due to notably lower birth projections in the mid-2020 ONS national population projections, used for the first time in this set of pupil projections, which are the main drivers of the pupil population”.
The change points to an uncertain future for the schools community, as a population bulge caused by a 2000s baby boom moves out of the education system and lower birth rates in more recent years begin to have an impact.
Schools Week revealed earlier this year that the number of surplus primary school places is set to soar by up to 140 per cent in some areas of England.
The shrinking population raises the prospect of school closures over the next decade, following a period in which hundreds of new schools were built across the country.
Today’s data predicts that the state primary population will shrink by 16.6 per cent over the next 10 years, from 4,571,211 to 3,810,464.
The state secondary population is expected to rise initially from 3,125,863 this year to 3,230,015 in 2024, before falling steadily to 2,950,857 in 2032, 5.6 per cent lower than it was this year.