From the high in 2015, there has been a significant drop in the net migration figures to Britain.
With emigration remaining more constant, it is clear that the number of immigrants entering these shores are falling, to bring about this overall reduction.
And, it seems fair to say, Brexit has played its part in this. Whether for good or for bad.
The extent of the effect of this on schools, though, is hard to judge.
Shortages of Places
We have known for some time now that there is going to be a surge of demand on primary schools in the next couple of years. There are some being built to cope with these extra numbers, but nothing like enough extra places are being created.
Local authorities do not have the money to embark on a significant building programme, and new Free Schools have barely touched the primary market.
Every time we drive through the outskirts of a town or city, the Prescott inspired house building programme which is polluting/enhancing (I know which word I would choose) the outer suburbs and green belt regions is impossible to miss. With the medium and larger of these expansions, it is usually incumbent on the builders to provide a school for the new population their houses bring.
It is not surprising to see that these schools tend not to be the priority for the construction companies, often not going up until the end of the building works. Buckingham Park in Aylesbury, for example, started to bloom houses in the middle of the last decade, but its primary school has only just begun taking pupils in all age groups.
Drop In Migration Figures Will Help
Well, it might. But not in the short term. Firstly, whilst the rate of migration is still dropping, the total figure is still around a quarter of million extra people entering the country each year. That means an additional 50-80 thousand school places will be required.
And, of course, those incoming families will continue to add children passing through the school gates as their own families expand.
Secondly, twenty percent of new babies are born to mothers born overseas already. As more people enter the country, that figure will increase.
What About Secondary Schools?
The bubble will hit secondary schools in the early part of the next decade. In the current climate, it is impossible to predict what net migration figures might look like by this point. But, we can be sure that there will be increasing rather reducing pressure on places.
What About Teachers?
Without going into the ins and outs in this blog, we know that teachers are leaving the profession in droves. We also know that an increasing number of these spaces in staffrooms are being filled by colleagues from overseas.
But, whilst the Government claims that skilled people will still be allowed into the UK, the extent to which they will want to enter a country where there is, at least in perception, a lack of welcome.
It does look as though we will be entering a time of increasing pupil numbers being taught by fewer and fewer teachers.
If it proves harder to fill the gaps with teachers from overseas, then the problem can only be exacerbated.
Lack of Foresight
Local authorities have been aware of the problem on the horizon for years. But they have not addressed it. Maybe this is because the funds were not available, perhaps because it was tomorrow’s problem.
More certain is that central Government have failed to create a strategic plan that has allowed for school places to be available. In some parts of London, over half of secondary children failed to gain a place in their first-choice school this September. And this is before the expansion hits.
It is hard to see that a fall in the number of people becoming UK residents will help to alleviate this.
Is There An Answer
Sadly, there are not many votes in building schools. The advantages are felt only in the region in which the schools are constructed. Given this, it is hard to see any answer beyond muddling through as usual.
No doubt the Brexiteers will proudly state that their actions have helped schools by reducing migration figures. Their claims will need to be properly examined.
Immigration is Good
Re-reading this blog, bits of it read like a UKipper’s personal manifesto. That is not the intention. Newcomers to our country enhance it, bringing cultural ideas, colour and energy – and no shortage of skills.
The answer to the shortage of school places does not lie in stopping immigration, in lies in proper forward planning, rather than knee-jerk Government reactions to political developments.