2005-11-16

Stats: Dwindling Population Affecting Schools

The number of pupils in Scotland's schools is expected to plummet by nearly 100_000 over the next decade. Figures released by 'The Scottish Executive' 2005-11-15, show that by 2016, there will be 631_000 pupils in state education, compared with 724_000 in 2004. Ministers say the predicted fall in school rolls is in line with wider demographic trends, which show that Scotland's overall population is expected to dip below five million within 30 years. However, 'The Scottish Executive' was warned not to use the declining number of pupils as an excuse for increasing the rate of school closures across the country. Ms.Fiona Hyslop, 'The Scottish National Party' education spokesman, added that Scotland's economic wellbeing was being put at risk by 'The Scottish Executive's' failure to address the dwindling population. She said:
'"The Executive" must not use the falling school population as an excuse to close schools.
'Instead, it must use this opportunity to cut class sizes and increase child-care provision. 'However, these figures are a clear indicator of Scotland's falling population.
'"The Executive" must grasp the gravity of the situation and the danger it poses to our economy and public services before Scotland's population rate falls further.'
Primary school rolls are due to fall by 10 per cent from 398_000 to 359_000, while the number of pupils in secondary schools will fall more sharply from 318_000 to 266_000 -- a drop of 16 per cent. A spokesman for 'The Scottish Executive' said decisions on school closures were taken by local councils, but insisted that the falling rolls also presented an opportunity to improve pupils' education. She said it would help ministers to achieve their objective of cutting class sizes in primary one and maths and English classes in the first two years of secondary school. The spokesman said:
'We wouldn't expect the falling school rolls to lead to emergency school closures.' But she added: 'However, it does mean that councils will have to make difficult decisions about their school accommodation needs. 'We're putting unprecedented investment into school buildings and that, combined with the falling school rolls, will help us to reduce class sizes. 'We are also increasing the teacher workforce to 53_000 by 2007, and this is also going to lead to much better pupil-teacher ratios.'
'The Scottish Executive' figures also showed that the number of pupils being taught at home has remained virtually static in the past 12 months. A total of 417 children were known by local authorities to be receiving home education in 2004/2005, having been removed from school by their parents, a rise of six on the year before. However, the number of children being taught at home who had never attended school was 127, seven fewer than in 2003/2004. 'The Scottish Executive' also admits there may be more children educated outwith school who are not known to local authorities. Ms.Brenda Holliday, of 'The Home Education Advisory Service', said more should be done to make parents aware that it is possible to teach their children at home.She said:
'People should know that home education is an option, because it is not something that is promoted by the state education system. 'It is the right option for many children who are unhappy at school and who could benefit from being removed from the school environment. 'It can sometimes just be a temporary measure, but it is something that parents need to be made aware of.'
'School roll of Scots pupils 'will fall by 100,000 over next 10 years' ', Kevin Schofield, The Scotsman, 2005-11-16

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