Mid-year estimates from the Office of National Statistics released today* show around 9,000 more children in London in the under-one age category compared with the number of one year olds. That’s a big jump, and more than 20,000 greater than the number of five year olds. If these children stay in the capital then the pressure on services, and not least on schools, is going to remain intense. At least 500 extra teachers will be needed when those born since the last figures were published reach school-age.
Although the present supply of teachers for the primary sector is adequate, the government will need to watch for any decline in interest in teaching the early years, and be prepared to improve the limited funding to encourage training and working in London if such a decline occurs. Fortunately, there is some, but not much, relief from the figures for the South East where there is a slight drop in the totals, but it is only just over a thousand. Elsewhere across the regions of England there don’t seem to be any dramatic changes in the number of under-ones compared with the total of one year-olds.
Pressure on childcare and nursery places is going to be felt ahead of the problems facing the school but at least the government and local authorities have time to respond to the population growth. I personally doubt whether ‘free school’ will be the answer and however much Mr Gove may not like local authorities he would be well advised to ensure that they have sufficient funds left for planning how to handle this increase. No doubt the Mayor of London will also have something to say about the issue since strategic planning for the whole of London is one of his concerns.
Funding these extra pupil numbers is going to be one of the biggest challenges facing education planners over the next decade, especially as class sizes are fixed at a maximum of thirty for the under-7s. Finding space for all the new classrooms is going to almost as big a challenge.