It’s been an anxious time for hundreds of thousands of families in England, finding out where their children are going to be starting primary school in September. What’s made this more difficult has been the extra pressure on places from a spectacular school-age population surge in some parts of the country. Up 44% in Croydon, 43% in Barking, 37% in Hounslow, 33% in Merton, 32% in Greenwich, according to figures from the Department for Education showing pupil numbers between 2010 and 2015.
Only a minority of authorities have single-digit increases, mostly in the north of England.
Like a rolling wave, this is going to hit services upstream – secondary schools, universities, health, housing and transport. It will require thousands more teachers. Schools already have more staff than ever before. A high proportion are women – with the remarkable statistic that about one in 12 of all women working in England now have a job in a school. Given the scale of the rising pupil numbers, it’s perhaps surprising that there hasn’t been a bigger problem with some children not getting any place at all.