More than 400 new secondary schools needed 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 meet demand, 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.

Mark Robinson, Scape Group chief executive, said: “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 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.

Scape Group has outlined a six-point plan 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.

Robinson commented: “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.”

Click here to download the Scape Group report, The Secondary School Places Challenge.

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