The falling birth rate in England and Wales is a ticking time bomb for school admissions. By 2029, there are projected to be over 620,000 less pupils in full time education. With schools set to lose over £2 billion per year, the consequences could be devastating. Now is the time to plan for the future. Find out what impact the falling birth rate is likely to have for your school and how you can be forward-thinking in your approach. 

The falling birth rate

The likelihood is you will have seen the countless news articles about the steadily declining birth rate. In 2022 The Office of National Statistics (ONS) reported that the number of babies born in England and Wales dropped to the lowest figure in two decades. As well as seeing a 3.1% decline of live births in the space of only a year. 

However, what you may not realise is that the birth rate is predicted to continue falling steadily. Looking ahead to 2029 the projected birth rate shows more than a 15% decline from the actual 2019 birth rate figures. The figures clearly show that not only has the birth rate been falling but that it is likely to continue to fall until the end of the decade. So what is causing this huge social shift?

What is causing the decline?

When it comes to the decision to start a family or grow your family there are many reasons that influence that choice. Some of them may be:

  • Insufficient finances: The cost of raising a child is rising, making it more difficult for couples to afford to have children.
  • Cost of living crisis: The rising cost of living is making it more difficult for families to make ends meet, even if they have the financial resources to have children.
  • Work and job security: Many people are now working longer hours or in insecure jobs, making it difficult to find the time and stability to have children.
  • Health concerns: Some people are delaying or avoiding having children due to health concerns, such as the risk of complications during pregnancy or childbirth.
  • Childcare worries: The cost of childcare is high, and many people are concerned about the quality of childcare available.
  • Shifts in societal norms: There is a growing trend towards delaying or avoiding parenthood, as people focus on their careers and other interests.

The financial impact on schools

A falling birth rate means one thing to schools: financial loss. When we consider the impact of the decline, our primary schools will be one of the first settings to feel this, after nurseries and preschools. Simply put, less pupil admissions means less funding for schools. 

When we look at the actual birth rate figures for 2019 (4,624,180) compared to 2022 (4,571,211) it may not look much different. However when we consider the funding per pupil it equates to a loss of more than £185,000,000 over the academic year across all primary schools in England and Wales. 

Looking ahead to projected figures there is likely to be over 610,000 less primary pupils in full time education by 2029 compared to 2022 and over 10,000 less secondary pupils too. Again you may think that doesn’t sound like it would have a huge impact financially. When in reality this means schools will lose over £2 billion per year lost from pupil admissions income.  

Breaking this down even further, per primary school that is a loss of more than £160,000 per year by 2029. We know that school budgets have never been tighter and more stretched than they are now. School leaders are having to make tough decisions about how to utilise their budget to get the most from it. So what will £160,000 less per year look like to your school?

What does this mean?

The impact of this financial loss is likely to be felt by all primary schools, although some more than others. Let’s explore some realistic repercussions that this financial loss could mean for your school.

Parent power

Gone will be the days where every school in the area was oversubscribed and competition for places in Year R was fierce. Instead parents will have more choice of schools and the power will shift to the parents, with schools keen to attract as many students as possible to avoid low entry numbers.

Competition amongst schools

We know that less pupils means less funding for schools so competition between local schools will increase which could impact previously strong working relationships or collaboration for the community. 

Rural school closures

Schools with a small number of pupils on roll, such as village and rural schools are likely to feel the effect first. This may result in the closure of these schools as they cannot financially afford to keep running. 

School budget cuts

With less funding schools will have to look carefully at their budget and find where cuts can be made to reduce costs. This could mean not replacing equipment, less resources for pupils, not updating technology or much more.

Staffing cuts & less support

One of the biggest outgoings for a school is staffing so schools may look to reduce costs through redundancies. Often these will be support staff who provide crucial support for teachers and some of the most vulnerable pupils. Where schools or trusts employ additional staff such as specialist teachers, they may look to reduce their time or remove this role entirely as a means of saving money.

Bigger class sizes & mixed year groups

If classes aren’t at capacity then schools could look to merge classes together or mix year groups to ensure that classes are operating at full capacity to guarantee they are cost effective. 

Urban schools

City schools competition will remain higher than urban schools due to the area being more densely populated. Our schools in towns will be where this is felt most, particularly those with lower Ofsted ratings. 

Ofsted inspections & exam results

Research shows that one of the key deciding factors for parents when selecting schools; both primary and secondary, is the Ofsted inspection rating and exam results. Having a ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted rating means parents are more likely to choose that school as a top three choice. 

However if the school has felt the effect of the falling birth rate and had to make financial cutbacks to offset this, such as reducing staffing or support staff, less up-to-date resources or larger than average class sizes this in turn is highly likely to result in changes to exam results overall or even Ofsted inspections. And soon a vicious cycle is born, so how can we change this narrative?

How Can Schools Respond?

There are a number of things that schools can do to respond to the challenges posed by the falling birth rate. These include:

  • Focus on marketing and pupil admissions: Schools need to focus on marketing their school to attract students. This includes highlighting the school’s strengths and unique selling points.
  • Collaborate with other schools: Schools can collaborate with other schools to share resources and expertise. This can help to reduce costs and improve the quality of education for all students.
  • Innovate: Schools need to be innovative in order to find new ways to deliver education. This could include using technology or new teaching methods.
  • Work with the community: Schools need to work with the community to build support for their school. This could involve engaging with parents, businesses, and other organisations.

This all means that pupil admissions will be crucial for schools and multi-academy trusts to get right in a way that we haven’t seen before. Schools must sell themselves, highlight all the fantastic work they are doing and show what makes them unique. Eduprise know how you can guarantee that parents are applying for your school. When the time comes for the application window to open you’ll be able to see your projected pupil admission numbers. 

How can Eduprise help?

Eduprise is a full-service marketing and communications agency that specialises in working with schools and multi-academy trusts. We have a team of experienced professionals with 20 years of experience in the industry who are passionate about education. 

When done right, marketing, social media and digital content creation can have a huge effect in areas as diverse as:

  • Raising your profile locally and nationally
  • Building strong links with the local and wider community
  • Increasing pupil admissions
  • Improving your social media presence and engagement
  • Growing your parental engagement
  • Generating additional income through fundraising

If you’re looking to grow your admissions or future-proof them from the financial impact of the falling birth rate then the Eduprise team is here to help you be proactive rather than reactive. Get in touch with us today to explore new possibilities!