School capacity improves slightly as secondaries prepare for population bulge

The proportion of schools that were full or over-capacity fell slightly last year, new data shows.

Department for Education statistics released this morning show 15 per cent of secondary schools were full or over-capacity in 2018, down from 16 per cent in 2017.

The proportion of full or over-capacity primary schools also decreased from 23 per cent in 2017 to 21 per cent in 2018.

The figures come as the schools community readies itself for a population bulge, prompted by the early-2000s baby boom, which will move from primary level in the coming years. Data published last summer shows secondary schools will have 418,000 more pupils by 2027.

Today’s data shows 59,000 extra primary school places and 37,000 extra secondary school places were added to schools during 2017-18.

The number of unfilled places in primary and secondary schools increased slightly last year.

There were 467,000 unfilled places in primary schools, up 3 per cent from 453,000 2017.  Overall, 79 per cent of primary schools had one or more unfilled places as of last May.

In secondary schools there were 639,000 unfilled places in 2018, up 0.2 per cent on 2017 when there were 638,000 unfilled places. Eighty-five per cent of secondary schools had one or more unfilled places in 2018.

According to the government, unfilled places can be evidence of local authorities planning ahead for future need.

Unfilled places “can also be attributed to the building of whole new schools, which fill up from the bottom, leaving space in the upper years until those year groups work their way through”.

“In some areas, low or declining need for places will also contribute to the number of unfilled places.”

Education secretary Damian Hinds said the government was “undertaking the biggest expansion in school places in two generations”, adding “the statistics out today show we are well on track to create one million places this decade”.