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Primary Schools 18 per cent rise in pupils by 2020

Primary schools are facing a dramatic rise in the number of children needing places as soaring birth rates and immigration push state education to "breaking point".

The number of primary school pupils in England will grow by over 700,000 by 2020. Photo: ALAMY
By , Political Correspondent

Local authorities in parts of London, the West Midlands and South West have already been forced to install mobile classrooms and educate children in church halls in recent years because of a shortage of space.

Some councils have called for legal limits to class sizes to be increased so that they can accommodate squeeze more pupils into classrooms.

The latest figures reveal that there are currently 4,114,000 children in England's primary and nursery schools. By 2020, this is projected to rise to 4,850,000 - a rise of 18%.

In the next three years alone, pupil numbers in these schools are predicted to increase by 8%, equivalent to an extra 326,000 children, the figures showed.

At the same time, pupil numbers in secondary schools are expected to fall until 2015, when they will start to rise as primary-age pupils move up.

The rise in primary and nursery school pupils has been fuelled by an increasing birth rate and the effects of immigration.

Projections produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that some regions will be feeling a squeeze on places more than others.

While all areas are set to see an increase in their primary age population, it will range from a rise of around 9% in the north east and south west, to an 18% rise in London.

Stephen Twigg, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, warned that there was a “crisis” in primary places.

“Many schools are at breaking point with pupils potentially being taught in warehouses and empty shops,” he said.

“Labour have been warning the Government for months about the huge shortfall in places.

”But instead of addressing this crisis head on, the Government has slashed the capital budget by nearly two thirds and are creating free schools, many of which are in areas where there isn’t a demand for extra places or from parents.”

Lord Hill, the schools minister, said that the Government was spending more than £4 billion on extra primary school places and blamed Labour for the crisis.

“The last Government knew there was an issue as early as 2004, but sadly did nothing," he said.

“Worse than that, they actually cut funding for new places while squandering millions on expensive secondary schools.”

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