A recent article in The Spectator reported on the baby boom phenomenon which is occurring in many areas of the country. The writer of the piece, George Bridges, referred to South West London as ‘Nappy Valley’ – something I can also vouch for as I live in the same neck of the woods!
There are now Nappy Valleys all over Britain — places feeling the blast of a population explosion. Over the past decade, the number of births in England and Wales has increased by 14 % – the number of state school places has not. Although Labour doubled education spending, it closed on average 140 schools a year. To keep pace with demand, Bridges argues that we should be opening 400 schools a year.
The baby boom was widely predicted, and along with it the need for more schools. Yet many would argue planning was insufficient, resulting in the current battle for state primary school places. Councils in London need 70,000 more places over the next four years. Bristol claims to need 3,000, which is 14 small primary schools. The situation is the same in a number of locations around the country including Luton, Leeds, Swindon, Poole, Eastbourne, Coventry, Rotherham and Darlington.
Immigration also has a direct effect and a role in the rising birth rate: one in eight children born in the past decade had at least one immigrant parent, and every second child born in London has an immigrant mother. If this pattern continues, the population could rise to 70 million over the next two decades.
The implications are radical. Our state today still operates according to the needs of 1950′s Britain, when the population was just 50 million, so how will it be able to cope with a population almost half as big again? How will state funded schools cope? Will this be a recruitment opportunity for the independent schools sector?
In September, mtmconsulting will publish its Independent Education Sector Report 2012 which will look at the impact on the independent sector of a range of factors including the increasing birth rate and immigration. Key findings of this report will also be presented at mtmconsulting’s sixth annual autumn conference which will take place on 13th September.