School populations change as populations move, age and grow or decline. And that has an impact on school finances. A local authority with a growing school age population will get more funding from Welsh government but will also have to make space for the children. A local authority with a declining population will need to look hard at how to ensure all their schools are sustainable on a declining income, or will have to consider closing schools.
We've mapped the occupancy rates of schools—that is the number of children enrolled in a school as a percentage of the number of children that can be admitted to the school. We don't have all the data yet. Most local authorities publish their capacity numbers (maximum number of children a school can take, based on its space calculation) along with their admissions information. But some don't. We're working on getting that information but for the moment that explains the gaps.
The colours show the levels of occupancy—key on the left, menu on the right.
You can see that the schools with low levels tend to be in the very rural areas—Powys, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire. Even in those areas the smaller more rural schools often have much lower occupancy rates than larger schools in nearby towns. Falling rural populations create great challenges for local authorities, and closing schools is never popular, but some authorities seem to have managed the problem of excess surplus places better than others.
Contrast Ceredigion with Carmarthenshire. Ceredigion does have lots of schools with many surplus places, but none are in our red category of having less than half the number the school could take.
Carmarthenshire's picture is more varied and several schools have fewer than half the number they could take.
Now let's look at an urban authority. Here's Newport where most of its schools currently have more pupils than the capacity figure, and that will present its own different set of challenges.
To find out more and to look at overall population trends for each local authority, follow the links below.
Blaenau Gwent … Bridgend … Caerphilly … Cardiff … Carmarthenshire … Ceredigion … Conwy … Denbighshire … Flintshire … Gwynedd … Isle of Anglesey … Merthyr Tydfil … Monmouthshire … Neath Port Talbot … Newport … Pembrokeshire … Powys … Rhondda Cynon Taf … Swansea … Torfaen … Vale of Glamorgan … Wrexham