Fifth of desks empty at district's schools in 2015
ONE in every five secondary school desks in South Gloucestershire will be standing empty within two years.
Forecasters predict there will be 3,200 surplus places – the equivalent of three full secondary schools – across the district by 2015.
Education chiefs at South Gloucestershire Council believe there are not enough students to sustain the existing number of places and that the district's estate of secondaries may need to be "rationalised", with spare space potentially being allocated to primary school children.
They say figures will pick up by 2019 but any future growth in pupil numbers is dependent on proposed house-building going ahead.
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The extent of falling rolls has been laid bare in the council's Commissioning of Places Strategy 2011-2016, which will be discussed at a meeting of the council's Children and Young People Committee tomorrow.
The strategy is aimed at ensuring there are enough places for primary and secondary school pupils in the district over the next three years.
According to the document, the council's secondary schools had a surplus of 2,350 pupils last year (15 per cent) which will rise to 3,200 (20 per cent) in 2015.
Education officials say numbers in the region's 16 secondary schools will begin to increase from 2016 as pupils from the region's expanding primary schools start to filter through.
However, a surplus of 1,500 (10 per cent) will still exist in 2020, it is predicted.
The area with the largest proportion of surplus places is Filton, Bradley Stoke and Patchway (26 per cent unfilled desks rising to 28 per cent by 2014), followed by Yate and Chipping Sodbury (19 per cent now rising to 25 per cent in 2015).
The strategy document says: "The pattern of demand for secondary school places shows a year on year downturn.
"Significant surpluses are projected between 2012 and 2021 across the majority of secondary schools in South Gloucestershire and numbers are not projected to increase to current levels until 2019. Current surpluses are almost equivalent to an 11 form entry school (ten per cent surplus).
"Major new house-building will boost demand for places, though the location, timing and mix of new house-building will be crucial in determining when and where additional secondary provision is required in the long term.
"In the short to medium term the local authority will be looking at ways to rationalise the secondary school estate."
Although there are falling rolls at secondary schools, the number of primary school-aged children in some areas of South Gloucestershire is rising sharply. In 2012, the number of reception children in the region reached a ten-year high.
The council has agreed it needs to provide 300 more places each year for the next four years to meet demand.
Officials say primary schools will be expanded, more schools will be built and primary children may be taught in secondary schools with surplus places.
Although Bristol also has a high proportion of empty secondary school desks, at 30 per cent, it is anticipated the figure will drop sharply from 2016 and more places will need to be created from 2018.