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Education news

Declining sixth form numbers see grammar enrolments fall

Pupil numbers decreased in both grammar and non-grammar schools

FALLING sixth form numbers have caused enrolments in grammar schools to decline for the first time in years.

The Department of Education yesterday published new statistics that revealed the overall enrolment figures for all schools.

The total number of pupils on the school census day in October 2016 was approximately 342,000, an increase of almost 2,000 compared to 2015.

However, enrolments in post-primary schools fell for the sixth consecutive year to 140,417 pupils, dropping by almost 700 compared to last year.

They are now at their lowest level since records began 30 years ago.

This mirrors a decrease in population estimates in the same period.

Compared to last year, there was a reduction in both grammar and non-grammar settings. This reversed a trend in previous years, where grammar school enrolments had been steadily rising.

Numbers in Years 8-12 of grammar schools have remained steady, but it is sixth forms that are suffering a decline. There are about 400 fewer pupils in grammar sixth forms now compared to 12 months ago.

It is understood this is partly due to an increase in pupils failing to progress from lower to upper sixth form.

In her recently-published chief inspector's report, Noelle Buick expressed concern about those in Year 13 who failed to progress to Year 14 last year.

"There may be genuine reasons why a small proportion of pupils may not wish to complete their post-16 study, but it is evident that too many pupils, who commence a two-year programme of study, are refused or discouraged from progressing to year 14," she said.

"Schools must recognise they have a responsibility to ensure that pupils who begin post-16 study have the pre-requisite skills and level of attainment to undertake the full two-year course, and that they are well supported to make progress in their learning."

Elsewhere, the number of pupils in compulsory primary school education was 171,615.

This has risen by almost 3,000 compared with last year and is the highest number recorded since 2000.

Special school enrolments have also gradually increased, rising by around 750 pupils in the last four years to 5,398 in 2016/17.

About 30 per cent of children - more than 100,000 - are now entitled to free school meals.

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