More than 14,500 extra secondary school classrooms required in UK by 2020

New research from Scape Group, the public sector procurement specialist, has revealed that an additional 435,646 pupils will be joining the UK’s secondary school system in 2020, which would require over 14,500 additional secondary classrooms across the country.

Scape’s report, The Secondary School Places Challenge, looked at the challenge facing the secondary school system across the UK using Department of Education and devolved authority data. It shows the equivalent of 14,522 secondary school classrooms would need to be built over the next three years to ensure we have enough school places, which would equate to over 400 brand new 1,050 pupil secondary schools across the country.

Although the greatest school building requirement will be in England (13,337 classrooms), 527 classrooms would also be required in Scotland, 340 in Wales and 318 in Northern Ireland, to meet the projected growth in secondary school pupils.

Country Number of extra secondary school pupils by 20/21 All Pupils % growth Equivalent number of secondary school classrooms1 Equivalent number of secondary schools1
England 400,097 13 13,337 381
Scotland 15,800 5.7 527 15
Wales 10,200 6.5 340 9
Northern Ireland 9,549 13 318 9
United Kingdom 435,646 9.5 14,522 414

The Secondary School Places Challenge: Scape Group

 Mark Robinson, Scape Group Chief Executive, comments: “Secondary school pupil numbers are set to rise significantly and there is a real risk that if we do not increase the output of new secondary school classrooms there will be significant pressure on places across the UK. Such is the scale of the projected increase in secondary school pupils that the Government should now seek to develop a National School Building Strategy that brings together the Department of Education, local and regional government, and industry. We must ensure there is a joined-up approach that embraces modern methods of construction such as modular and offsite techniques, which can deliver schools quickly and cost-effectively.”

London to see the biggest increase

Regions Number of extra secondary school places required by 20/21 All Pupils % growth Number of secondary school classrooms needed1 Number of secondary schools needed1
London 76,299 15.5 2,543 73
West Midlands 47,251 13.3 1,575 45
East of England 47,882 13.0 1,596 46
South West 36,580 12.0 1,219 35
South East 59,570 11.9 1,986 57
North West 49,186 11.8 1,640 47
East Midlands 32,116 11.6 1,071 31
Yorkshire and the Humber 35,392 11.1 1,180 34
North East 15,821 11.0 527 15

Department of Education’s 2016 School Capacity and forecast tables statistics, available through GOV.UK.

London will see the biggest increase in secondary school pupil numbers in the UK, with the Capital set to experience a 15.5% rise by 2020. This is the equivalent of 2,500 classrooms, or 73 schools. The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham is set to see an increase of 40% in secondary pupil numbers by 2020, the highest in the country.

Outside of London, Manchester City Council is forecast to see the biggest percentage increase, with secondary school pupil numbers forecast to increase by 35% in the next three years. This is the equivalent of 321 additional classrooms.

Fastest growing UK local authorities by secondary pupil percentage growth
  Number of extra secondary school places required by 2020/21 All Pupils % growth Number of secondary school classrooms needed1 Number of secondary schools needed1
Barking and Dagenham 5,933 39.9 198 6
Manchester 9,627 35.4 321 9
Greenwich 3,861 26.5 129 4
Slough 2,961 25.8 99 3
Reading 1,887 25.6 63 2
Leicester 4,680 24.6 156 4
Bracknell Forest 1,684 23.9 56 2
Newham 5,081 23.4 169 5
Southampton 2,286 22.4 76 2
Stockton-On-Tees 2,359 22.0 79 2

Department of Education’s 2016 School Capacity and forecast tables statistics, available through GOV.UK.

Scape Group’s recommendations on how to tackle the School Places Challenge

  1. A National School Building Strategy should be created to bring together the Department of Education, local authorities and the delivery marketplace.
  2. To maximise the value and efficiency of secondary school sites, commissioning authorities should seek opportunities to share new facilities, such as a local leisure centre, community space or council building, with primary schools or the wider community.
  3. Building schools of up to three or four storeys to deliver maximum capacity, particularly on smaller sites, without compromising on pupils’ learning experience.
  4. Adoption of offsite/modular construction as the main method of construction for all school buildings to allow them to be built at a faster rate compared to traditional methods.
  5. Investment in school extensions to significantly improve the cost and time it takes to create additional school places.
  6. Schools must be built first in major urban extensions and new developments to ensure they will be able to meet the needs of future residents without putting pressure on existing schools.

Mark Robinson, Scape Group Chief Executive, comments:

“The Government must view this situation as a priority – it is critical that we do not fail our children by not providing enough new secondary school places. As primary school pupils move up the education system, an increased pressure is being placed on local authorities to deliver new secondary schools in a short timeframe. A collaborative approach between public and private sectors and Local and Central Government is key to bridging the school capacity gap – and a cohesive national strategy on modular for new schools could go a long way in reducing the amount of time it would take to provide areas with much-needed school places. However there needs to be significant investment behind this for it to have the desired effect.”

Fran Cox, Operations Director at Sunesis, comments:

“It currently takes far too long to secure planning for new schools and, with the equivalent of 14,522 classrooms required by 2020, we are running out of time to ensure pupils will have a sufficient space in which to learn. The Government should look at ways to speed-up decisions on school building. Commitment to offsite or modular construction is an obvious way in which Government can help tackle this school places challenge, as it offers clear timescales for delivery, flexibility and certainty of cost for both school extensions and new schools. ”

The full Scape Group report, The Secondary School Places Challenge, can be downloaded from