UK schools are finding themselves under unprecedented pressure as the demand for secondary school places continues to outweigh the availability. According to The Guardian, a third of families in London are unable to send their children to their first choice of secondary school, as rising numbers of school-age pupils put pressure on classroom places across the south of England.
Throughout the towns of Essex, Kent and Bristol among others, fewer families are receiving offers for school places for their preferred institutions.
The reported statistics cite that 6,400 children in London, or 6% of the total, were allocated a school that their family had not listed as a preference.” The data also showed that families who made more choices tended to gain places at higher-performing schools.
However, the Department for Education maintains that the number of parents securing a place for their child at their first-choice school is stable, with the majority of families receiving offers from a top three preferred school last year.
Tackling the pressure on school places
So what is the government doing to mitigate the pressure on school places? The DfE says that they intend to create an additional 600,000 school places by 2021, as part of a £23 billion public investment in school-age education. Yet, school places are still facing the most severe shortage in decades.
According to the National Union of Teachers, the government has instructed that any new school must now be a free school – one that is not controlled by local authorities. However, the Education Select Committee has found that 52 per cent of these openings were in areas with either no forecast need for more school places or only a moderate requirement – whilst many over-stretched areas remain overlooked.
This pressure is having a marked affect on teachers. The expansion of school places has increased the average school size by the equivalent of a whole class, whilst facilities often go unchanged. Simultaneously, 38 per cent of teachers who responded to the Teacher Network Survey said support for students with special educational needs has been cut in schools – whether through the redundancy of teaching assistants or reduction of financial support. This, combined with growing class sizes, puts unprecedented pressure on class teachers to provide tailored support to countless students.
Another major problem faced by over-subscribed schools is a lack of space. Whilst new school builds are a must, these new institutions must be designed with scalability in mind. Existing schools should seek to maximise the space they have, whether with smart classroom layouts or with increasingly functional communal space.
Here at Streetspace Urban Structures, we are experienced in assessing what schools need to enhance their existing spaces. We offer vibrant, functional and welcoming solutions to create communal spaces in schools that offer flexibility and can evolve with the school. From covered outdoor dining spaces that can accommodate more students at lunchtime, to enhanced social spaces that are needed when additional classrooms are built – we can help schools to provide the essential facilities they need to cater for more students.
To find out more, contact us on 08450 750 760.