How the war in Ukraine, baby booms and Hong Kong are impacting on Sheffield school places

Baby booms, new housing developments and even the war in Ukraine are all having an effect on school places in Sheffield.

Tuesday, 22nd March 2022, 1:42 pm

Sheffield Council tries to forecast how many places are needed over the next decade but it’s a difficult balancing act.

Officers need to ensure there are enough places but don’t want to create too many in case pupil numbers fall further down the line.

While birth rates are used to help officers plan, other factors are more unpredictable.

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Sheffield Council tries to forecast how many school places are needed over the next decade

Gleadless councillor Paul Turpin asked what forecasting had been done for school places at a council meeting.

“We’ve got the city centre strategy coming up and something like 20,000 new homes going up in the city centre, with 40,000 new homes across the city.

“In my ward there’s about 18,000 people from all ages so I’m thinking we’ll need about five primary schools with 11 classes per year group to serve those people.”

Migration impact on schools

Officer Nicola Shearstone said the council uses a forecasting tool that covers the next 10 years. The further into the future that goes, the less accurate it is but generally it is fairly reliable.

She said: “We take into account the birth rates but some of the factors that we can’t account for are the current crisis that we’ve seen in Ukraine and the potential migration and immigration relating to that.

“We’ve had similar Hong Kong migration that we need to take into account as well.

“Those factors are very unknown for us at the moment, it’s very hard until we start to see some of the children entering the city to know what those growth rates would be like.”

Rising and falling birth rates

Housing growth in the city is also considered and the council looks at how new developments may impact on each year group.

Ms Shearstone added: “We have had a rising birth rate, which is now coming through into secondary schools, but we’re also experiencing a falling birth rate now.

“That’s been falling for a number of years and is having an impact potentially on our primary schools so we have a duty to manage the deficit in places as well as managing surplus places in the city.”