A school is identified as at or in excess of capacity when their pupil number on roll is greater than or equal to capacity (see 'methodology' for more information on ‘pupil on roll’). Some schools choose to operate in excess of their stated capacity because they feel that they can comfortably do so.
The number of state-funded primary schools that were at or in excess of capacity decreased to 2,790 schools (17% of primary schools) in May 2021 from 3,340 schools (20%) in May 2019. This is the lowest number of the past decade. Of these, 480 (3%) are operating at but not in excess of capacity; 1,560 (9%) exceed by fewer than 10 pupils; and 750 (4%) exceed by 10 or more pupils.
The number of state-funded secondary schools that were at or in excess of capacity increased to 750 schools (22% of secondary schools) in May 2021 from 560 schools (17%) in May 2019. This increase corresponds to the larger cohort moving into the secondary phase. However, this is still lower than 2010 (930, 28%). Of the 750 schools in 2021, 20 (1%) are operating at but not in excess of capacity; 130 (4%) exceeded by fewer than 10 pupils; and 610 (18%) exceeded by 10 or more pupils.
Where the number on roll is higher than a school’s capacity, the number of pupils in places that exceed their school's capacity is the difference between number on roll and capacity.
The number of pupils in places that exceed their school's capacity has decreased to 56,000 in 2021, from 97,000 in 2010. However, this is an increase from 50,000 pupils in 2019.
This is driven by a 40% increase in secondary pupils in places that exceed their school's capacity, to 35,000 in 2021, from 25,000 in 2019. This continues the upward trend in recent years, which corresponds to the large cohort moving through secondary.
In primary schools, there were 21,000 pupils in places that exceed their school's capacity. This 16% decrease from the 25,000 pupils in 2019 continues the long-term downward trend in primary schools.