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Secondary schools in England are more oversubscribed than at any time in the past decade, data has shown.
Almost a quarter of state secondaries were over capacity in 2022, which means they had enrolled more pupils than their reported number of available places, according to the Department for Education.
Government figures showed that 755 secondary schools, or 22 per cent of secondaries in England, were over capacity in 2021-22.
Around 37,000 pupils were in places that exceeded their school’s capacity, up from 35,000 a year earlier.
The number of over-capacity schools has risen from a decade-low of 477 schools, or 14 per cent of secondary schools, in 2013-14.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The number of secondary school-age children has increased in recent years.
“While school places have been added to accommodate this increase, there is particular pressure on places at popular schools, generally those with ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ Ofsted ratings, which is probably why we see an increase in the number of secondaries at or over capacity.”
Pressure on places has been driven by a surge in the 11-year-old population after a baby boom in the 2000s. A rise in immigration has also increased demand for places.
The secondary school population is expected to peak in 2024 at 3.2 million before gradually declining.
Schools which are over capacity may be forced to have bigger class sizes to squeeze in excess pupils.
Data released on Thursday showed that the local authorities with the highest proportion of secondary schools “at or above capacity” included Kensington and Chelsea, Buckinghamshire, Walsall, Bury, and Hammersmith and Fulham. Other boroughs in the top-10 ranking for being over capacity included Cheshire East, Bath and North East Somerset and Southampton.
Prof Alan Smithers, of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, said: “Some local authorities, like Kensington and Chelsea and Buckinghamshire, have a high proportion of very popular schools attracting many children from beyond their boundaries. This will lead to these authorities topping the rankings for ‘at or above capacity’.”
He added: “Local authorities have planned for the increases and provided more than a million extra secondary places in the past decade, but this has now slowed down because they can see that the birth rate more recently has been falling.”
Families faced one of the most competitive years on record for 11-year-olds seeking a place at their first-choice secondary school this year.
Around 640,000 pupils are estimated to have applied to start Year Seven in September, up by around 40,000 in four years.
Demand for primary school places has started to fall in some areas. The proportion of primary schools that were “at or above capacity” was 17 per cent in 2021-22, down from 20 per cent a decade ago. In 2022, there were 569,000 unfilled places in primary schools, an increase of 2 per cent from 2021, and 24 per cent more than in 2010.
Local authorities with the highest proportion of unfilled primary places included Wandsworth and Lambeth, at 27 per cent.