Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Falling rolls a concern for Wales

Girl in a classroom

Falling rolls and small schools will create particular challenges for Welsh members in the next decade, delegates heard at an ASCL Cymru conference on the topic in February.

Like England, the proposed secondary curriculum in Wales is based on collaborative working between schools, colleges and local authorities. However, the context for the next decade may make competition the order of the day.

In Wales in January 2006:

  • 16 LEAs had significant surplus places in secondary schools

  • The net surplus capacity across the secondary sector was over 29,000

  • 23 per cent of the secondary schools were classified as 'small'

  • 31 per cent of small secondary schools had significant surplus capacity

Add to the mix the forecast of a 21,000 decline in the number of secondary age students by 2011 and the problems will grow.

However, the future is not certain because population forecasts will be confounded by factors such as migration, the impact of parental preference and the outcomes of reviews of provision for the 16-19 age group.

Given a finite budget, it is likely that the future will involve the reorganisation of secondary education and in some areas the closure of schools. However, in rural areas the distance between schools makes closures less sensible and the solution may involve yet smaller schools.

There are leadership and management issues for any school with a declining roll and the issues magnify as the size of the school reduces:

  • A declining budget and rising costs as economies of scale are lost

  • Delivering the full curriculum with a smaller staff

  • Maintaining staff morale as individuals are uncertain of the future

  • Complying with employment regulations when redundancy, redeployment and changed roles are probable

The issues of surplus places and falling rolls in secondary schools, coming at a time when significant curriculum and assessment change is demanded, will place heads and leadership teams under considerable pressure.

What is unknown is how much and in what ways surplus places and falling rolls will change this context and whether it will be for the better or the worse for the students of Wales.

Gareth Jones
ASCL Cymru Secretary

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