Picture: Steve Parsons
A birth rate boom has seen the number of children starting school swell, with local authorities – which are responsible for providing places – trying to keep up. In Suffolk, the increase is predicted to be 18pc.
And while the figures at secondary level are much lower – a predicted increase of 4pc in Norfolk and 2pc in Suffolk – high schools are likely to feel the impact in the coming years as pupils move through the system.
Scott Lyons. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY
Norfolk County Council has a school-building programme worth £169m – with £138m from the government to create more places – and £21.5m spent on creating 1,699 permanent places from 2015/16 to 2016/17 alone.
The pressure on places varies largely from community to community – the government estimates that another 1,670 new places will be needed in certain areas to meet demand in 2019/20, but says that more than 14,000 places will be spare in other areas.
“You have some schools where there are dwindling class sizes, who are seeing a massive reduction in funding and roles,” he said. “But in other areas things are booming and there are classes at breaking point.
“More and more I think you will see one teacher in a class with 30-plus pupils.”
Supersize primaries on the increase
The number of supersized primaries has risen in the last few years, with some around the country educating more than 1,000 pupils.
Nationally, the number of primaries with 601 to 700 pupils has jumped from 191 to 467 in the last decade.
Temporary mobile units have been destroyed to accommodate a two-storey, nine-classroom extension for its older pupils.
Spare spots in certain communities
While more places are needed in growing communities, there are thousands of spare spots in others.
The government figures estimate that in 2019/20 there will be 14,200 places spare at primaries and secondaries around the county. It works out as about 9.7pc of all primary spots and 13.9pc of the total at secondary schools.
The council said new – or expanded – schools were often built to accommodate future growth. Queen’s Hill Primary, in Costessey, they said, has just over 450 pupils, but can now take 630 thanks to recent work.
It means while several schools have waiting lists every year – particularly in areas such as Norwich and Wymondham – others have empty seats. At Norfolk’s particularly small schools, a year group can attract just one or two pupils.