Reporting year 2022

National pupil projections

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  1. Next update changed from July 2023 to October 2023

Release type


This annual release provides national projections for the number of pupils in schools in England by type of school and age.

The projections are based on new mid-2020 ONS national population projections published in January 2022, ONS monthly births data up to and including 2020 and School Census data up to and including January 2022.

ONS’s mid-2020 national population projections were the last set before the results of the 2021 census were known. Because of this no variants were produced and therefore these pupil projections only have a single, principal, projection.

Headline facts and figures - 2022

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National pupil projection results and comparison to previous model results

Actual (2022) and projected pupil numbers by school type, England

State-funded nursery & primary schools4,5974,5274,4414,3524,2594,1634,0653,9833,917
year on year change-70-86-89-93-96-98-82-66
State-funded secondary schools3,1263,1913,2303,2283,2193,1963,1633,1163,070
year on year change6539-2-9-23-33-47-46
State-funded special schools125128130130129128126124122
year on year change320-1-1-2-2-2
Alternative provision settings111212131313131212
year on year change101000-10
Total state-funded schools7,8597,8587,8147,7237,6207,5007,3677,2367,122
year on year change-1-44-91-103-120-133-131-114
  • The actual population in state-funded schools in 2022 was 7,859,000. This is projected to decrease by 944,000 (to 6,915,000) over the next ten years to 2032.
  • The projection model published in 2021 estimated a population of 7,269,000 in 2032[1] (opens in a new tab), so the updated model shows a decrease of 354,000 on the total at the end of its projection period.
  • The difference is primarily due to notably lower birth projections in the mid-2020 ONS national population projections, used for the first time in this set of pupil projections, which are the main drivers of the pupil population.
  • The following headlines focus on projections up to 2028 in recognition of the increased uncertainty in projections beyond this point.

Early years figure

  • This age group includes 4 year olds in reception class, which virtually all children attend, as well as the younger ages. Overall it has a higher proportion of children attending part-time and therefore is best reported as a full-time equivalent (FTE) population.
  • On that basis the FTE population of under 5 year olds in state funded education is projected to be 721,000 in 2028. This is 13.2% lower than the actual figure for 2022 (830,000).
  • This population decrease is due to the lower number of births, both actual to 2020 and also projected into the future by ONS.

State-funded nursery & primary schools

  • The overall population in these school types is projected to be 4,065,000 in 2028. This is 532,000 lower than the actual figure in 2022 (4,597,000).
  • The figure for 2028 is 168,000 lower than was forecast in the model published in 2021, a difference of -4.0%.

State-funded secondary schools

  • The secondary school population is projected to be 3,163,000 in 2028. This is 37,000 higher than the total in 2022 (3,126,000).
  • The figure for 2028 is 4,000 lower than was forecast in the model published in 2021, a difference of -0.1%.
  • The pattern of change in the secondary school population (peaking in 2024 then very slowly starting to drop) is unchanged.

[1] (opens in a new tab) Figure not previously published

Time series of actual and projected nursery & primary and secondary school population

Components of change

There are several elements which affect the results of the projections. The key elements, and how they affect the results, are detailed below.


  • The number of births feed directly into the projections but also affect how births are projected in the future.
  • The birth rate increased for over a decade until 2013, when it dropped notably. After a short period of stability the rates dropped again from late 2016 onwards.
  • This period of lower births has fed into ONS’s projections of the number of births expected in future years. The mid-2020 ONS national population projections, used for the first time in this set of pupil projections, contain notably lower birth projections.

Participation rates

  • These are calculated based on the number of pupils attending school (from the School Census) measured against the ONS total population figures.
  • This factor is particularly important in the early years, since parents can choose whether or not to send their children aged under 5 to school.
  • This factor is affected by the unusual patterns in the 2021 school census data. For example, the large drop in the number of children recorded as attending state-funded alternative provision (17% lower compared to the 2020 census) would have dropped the participation rate for that school type substantially.
  • The participation rate feeds into the calculations of the projected numbers for that particular school type. However, now we also had access to 2022 school census data we could start to assess the longevity of the effect of the pandemic and, if needed, adjust the methodologies accordingly. See further information in ‘Methodology’.


  • Direct immigration of pupils born outside the UK has a small effect on the school age population. However, the birth rate, which has a larger effect, is in turn affected by any increase in the number of children born to non-UK born women (who can have higher fertility rates). For more information on this see the methodology section.

Alternative scenarios

This projection model is underpinned by ONS’s mid-2020 national population projections. As this is the last set published before the results of the 2021 census were known ONS did not produce their usual range of variants (for example, high fertility) which we use to create variant pupil projection scenarios. These pupil projections therefore only have a single, principal, projection.

Further explanation is given in the methodology document accompanying this release.

Further information

More information on the census data which forms the start of the pupil projection model, and the differences seen in 2021, can be found in the publication ‘Schools, Pupils and their Characteristics’ published on Explore Education Statistics (EES) here.

More information on ONS’s national population projections and their projection methodology can be found here (opens in a new tab)

Help and support


Find out how and why we collect, process and publish these statistics.

Official statistics

These are Official Statistics and have been produced in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

This can be broadly interpreted to mean that these statistics are:

  • managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
  • meet identified user needs
  • produced according to sound methods
  • well explained and readily accessible

Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.

Our statistical practice is regulated by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR).

OSR sets the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value in the Code of Practice for Statistics that all producers of official statistics should adhere to.

You are welcome to contact us directly with any comments about how we meet these standards. Alternatively, you can contact OSR by emailing or via the OSR website.

Contact us

If you have a specific enquiry about National pupil projections statistics and data:

Pupils and School Finance team

Contact name: Helen Bray

Press office

If you have a media enquiry:

Telephone: 020 7783 8300

Public enquiries

If you have a general enquiry about the Department for Education (DfE) or education:

Telephone: 037 0000 2288

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