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


Our latest research report, The Secondary School Places Challenge, indicates that an extra 435,646 pupils will be joining the UK’s secondary school system in the next three years, equating to over 14,500 additional secondary classrooms required across the country. 

Using data from the Department of Education, The Scottish Government, The Welsh Government and Northern Ireland’s Department of Education, we have analysed secondary pupil projection numbers to identify how many more secondary schools and classrooms could be required across the UK to ensure we have enough school places available for our growing population of pupils.

This research shows that 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.

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 grow by 35% in the next three years - the equivalent of 321 additional classrooms.

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.”  


Our recommendations on how to tackle the School Places Challenge

  • A National School Building Strategy should be created to bring together the Department of Education, local authorities and the delivery marketplace.
  • 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.
  • Building schools of up to three or four storeys to deliver maximum capacity, particularly on smaller sites, without compromising on pupils’ learning experience.
  • 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.
  • Investment in school extensions to significantly improve the cost and time it takes to create additional school places.
  • 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 continues: “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 of Sunesis, comments: “It can take a considerable amount of time to secure planning permission for a new school and given the timescales currently in play, we will likely start to see more schools maximising their current estate – looking more towards extensions as a solution as opposed to building a completely new school. Offsite manufacturing is an obvious way in which building new classrooms, either as extensions or new schools, can be done with clear timescales for delivery, flexibility where necessary and certainty of cost. Yet, for us to truly grasp the opportunity presented by offsite technologies, as a country, we must work to increase manufacturing capability to meet demand.

Having worked within a local authority as a member of Bedfordshire Council’s education commissioning team and now at Sunesis, it is absolutely clear to me that collaboration between Local Government, the Department of Education and the private sector is vital. Having a joined-up approach to modular between public and private sectors and Local and Central Government would allow school building to become far more efficient and ultimately help significantly reduce the number of classrooms required.”

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