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Schools and class sizes in England & the UK: Social Indicators page

Published Monday, November 27, 2017

Trends in school numbers, sizes and class sizes

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The number of primary schools declined by 5,874 (22%) between 1970/71 and 2016/17.

The number of secondary schools fell by 1,842 (31%) over the same period.

Since 1950 the average size of a primary school has gone through a cyclical trend in a range of 180 to 220 pupils. In 2015/16 the average primary school size had risen slighty to around 260 pupils.

Over the same period the average size of secondary schools has also gone through cycles based on changes in pupil numbers, but the dominant trend has been to increase. In 2015/16 average secondary school size was 910 pupils.



The proportion of primary school pupils in England in large classes peaked at nearly 35% in 1998.  It subsequently declined sharply to 18% in 2002 and continued to gradually decline until 2011. Since then it has slightly increased.

In the secondary sector the trend was upwards during most of the 1990s.  The proportion of pupils in large class sizes rose from below 9% (1997) to nearly 12% in 2004 before falling to below 10% from 2013 to 2015, and then rising again in 2016 and 2017.

Commons Briefing papers SN02625

Author: Lydia Jackson

Topic: Schools

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