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School population data highlights education trends

14 Jun 2022|10:55

The latest statistics on school and pupil numbers and their characteristics has been released. All headline figures, the number of schools, pupil headcount, average class size and percentage of pupils eligible for Free School Meals (FSM), have increased. Pupils eligible for FSM now number just under 1.9 million with increases year on year for the last 6 years and a 1.7% increase in the last 12 months. Concern is that the current economic uncertainty is likely to increase this number even further in the near future. Looking across the country the figures present a disadvantage gap with the North East having the highest percentage of FSM at 29.1% while the South East has the lowest at 17.6%.

As Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) and Alternative Provision (AP) feature heavily in the current Green Paper SEND review, the figures make for an interesting read. The number of PRUs has reduced by 10 and the number of pupils attending decreased by just over 1,000. However, delving deeper into the figures there is reason to question why certain groups of pupils are disproportionately represented. Some of the key headline figures for the population in PRUs:

  • Disproportionately male – 72.2% compared to 51.1% in the school sector
  • Disproportionate number of FSM – 54.6% - over double that in the school sector

The number of pupils accessing APs has grown by over 10% to 35,600. Again this is disproportionately male at 74.3% though it is interesting to note that in comparison to PRUs there is a lower rate of FSM than the overall school sector at 20.4%. 

As we know from the Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) statistics released in May, 7.6% of students attending PRU or AP have an EHCP. Again this figure is considerably higher than the 5.3% of the school population with an EHCP. Further research is needed on the impact of poverty, SEN and the current education provision especially with respect to boys, as these figures would seem to suggest a compounding problem.