Schools in Wales

The number of schools in Wales has declined by around 25% over the past 40 years. Pupil numbers have fallen from 509,822 in 1970/1971 to 453, 349 in 2008/2009, approximately 12%. This is mainly due to a reduced birth rate in Wales following the population boom of the 1950s/60s.


Type of school

1970/71

1980/81

1990/91

2008/09

Nursery

44

69

54

28

Primary

1990

1908

1717

1478

Secondary

311

239

230

223

Special

36

73

61

44

Independent

70

72

71

60

Total

2445*

2361

2133

1833

* in 1980/81 direct grant schools became independent

There are issues that are pertinent to Welsh schools and the education system that are different to other countries in the UK and internationally.

Population density is very varied with 4,263 people per km2 in the Cardiff County Council area, yet seven council areas have fewer than 100 people per km2. This means that, historically, schools in rural, less dense areas had many different aged pupils being taught by one teacher and pupils travel long distances to school from a wide area.

Low population densities have led to school rationalisation with closure of schools in areas with a reduced population. In the past 40 years there has been a reduction in primary schools by 25% and secondary schools by almost 30% as the population has shifted from rural to urban areas following the collapse of traditional industrial centres and a decline in agriculture.

Road and rail networks are sporadic and make travel to school difficult. The transportation of goods and services is also difficult and relatively expensive. For example, the daily provision of hot school lunches for a small number of pupils are often transported from one site to another where there is a lack of catering facilities.

Many areas of Wales face a relatively hostile climate with a prevailing south westerly wind and average monthly rainfall of between 8cm to 17cm. Schools in exposed locations are likely to be subject to more rigorous maintenance routines due to the impact from harsh weather conditions and longer utilisation periods of internal spaces as pupils are contained indoors during break sessions. However, these more exposed locations are likely to have more free energy available for renewables such as wind and hydro-energy and this should be utilised wherever possible.

Wales has a rich industrial history with local sources of quality building materials such as slate and timber, and coal as an energy source.  This has heavily influenced the design of schools in the past and the use of local materials can be considered a sustainable approach in terms of both reduced transportation costs for materials and stimulation of the local economy.

There has been a significant increase in Welsh language schools over recent years led by parent demand and education policy drivers. In 2009 there were 464 welsh medium primary schools and 55 Welsh medium secondary schools in Wales.  This has led to the development of the first Welsh Medium Education Strategy which seeks to develop further Welsh language provision through all education levels.

WLGA - CLILC Llywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru / Welsh Assembly Government