City education bosses are facing a school places crisis as it emerged Birmingham has one of the highest birth rates in the country while being hit by record levels of migration.
Council officials are now drawing up emergency plans but are faced with immediate problems, including finding places for an extra 2,100 primary school children by 2015.
By 2019 the authority must find room for 10,650 more children, the equivalent of 355 new classes.
New census statistics from the government reveal Birmingham is fourth in the country in terms of average family size, well above the national average.
The crisis follows a period which actually saw the birth rate decline and schools close.
Council officials told the Post that the problem was being made more acute by net migration into the city by families with young children.
Many parents already have a nightmare trying to get children into their school of first choice. Figures show that last year just one in three Birmingham youngsters got their first preference.
Nationally the average number of children per family household is 1.79 but in Birmingham this has risen recently to 1.98, behind only Tower Hamlets, Bradford and Newham.
Many families are having more offspring with just under a quarter having three or more children – the third highest nationally.
Birmingham is also one of the few parts of England and Wales where average family sizes are growing.
There are a total of 270,860 families in the city, and 130,473 households with no dependent children.
Figures show there are 278,623 children young enough to need care from their parents.
A council report found that in 2003 there were just under 15,000 children entering reception classes in Birmingham but the projected figure for 2016 is just under 18,000, which corresponds to more than 100 extra classes of children of average size 30.
The report, entitled Birmingham Education Sufficiency Requirements, said: “The local authority has a statutory duty to meet basic need by ensuring that every child of school age is provided with a school place.
“This is particularly challenging during the current extended period of increased birth rates in Birmingham.”
The school places problem is being compounded by migration into the city which in just the school year of 2011-12 saw more than 850 primary school aged children arrive.
These pupils also present challenges to the education system due to cultural issues, with many unable to speak English.
The report said that the city would have to provide 2,100 additional places in 2015, and in 2019 – due to rocketing net migration into Birmingham – the authorities would need to find room for 10,650 extra primary school children.
The council is working on a strategy to tackle the impending schools crisis, utilising available capital funds to embark on a construction project and use existing city owned facilities.
But the problem is being exacerbated because the council has responsibility for providing school places but no direct control of a high proportion of the schools in Birmingham.
Officials are now inviting independent schools in the city to help take some of the demand and expand if necessary.
The authority highlighted concerns about the baby boom in Birmingham as long ago as 2010, which estimated that inner city ward Washwood Heath, for example, would see 1999 birth rates jump by 48 per cent by 2018.
The report revealed that the problems in part arose because between 1991 and 2001 there had been a 14 per cent drop in the birth rate, leading to some school closures.
All were in areas where demand for places is expected to be the highest, including Hall Green, Hodge Hill, Moseley, Sheldon, Yardley, Springfield and Washwood Heath.
Last year in the West Midlands as a whole there were 73,000 childbirths, part of a national upsurge which saw a total of 729,9674 born – the highest total since the baby boom year of 1971, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics.
The total number of births has also been steadily rising in the last decade, and is up by 20 per cent from 2002, when there were only 61,400 newborns.
Britain now has the fastest growing population in Europe in terms of absolute numbers of people.
But some see a high birth rate as positive for the economy as young working-age people ultimately help ease the tax and spending burden of an ageing population.
Dr Adrian Phillips, Director of Public Health in Birmingham added that the population increase also meant there were other implications for local services.
He said: “We’re proud to have a growing city with more young people than other cities in the UK but of course we have responsibilities to those young people.
“Giving every child the best start in life is crucial to reducing health inequalities.
“But the number of children in a family doesn’t have any direct public health consequences.
“There are other consequences if people have larger families – some positive, some negative.
“Larger families are more able to provide care and support but of course the challenge for a larger family is providing food, clothing and housing.”
Birmingham population factfile
- The West Midlands has the highest infant mortality rates in the country, with 5.5 deaths per thousand births, according to ONS data.
- The city’s population has increased by almost 100,000 since 2001 as a whole and latest estimates suggest a population of 1,085,400, based on the 2012 mid-year population estimate.
- Birmingham is Britain’s youngest city and research shows that 36 per cent of residents are under 24 with 45.7 per cent under 30, compared with 36.8 per cent for England. In contrast 12.9 per cent of residents are over 65, compared with 16.9 per cent nationally.
- The city’s make-up is growing more diverse with around 42 per cent of residents coming from an ethnic group other than White.
- A census revealed 46.1 per cent of Birmingham residents said they were Christian, 21.8 per cent Muslim and 19.3 per cent had no religion. Just over a fifth of residents were born outside the UK, compared with 14 per cent in England and 11 per cent in the West Midlands region.
Children's Health in Birmingham
- Birmingham has some of the most deprived five per cent of districts in the country. Deprivation is associated with smoking, teenage alcohol consumption, unhealthy eating, high levels of obesity and low levels of physical activity. The same is true for mental health problems and non-accidental injuries.
- Five per cent of children under five in Birmingham are in households accepted as homeless.
- High smoking prevalence means that large numbers of children spend their childhood exposed to tobacco smoke.
- Ten per cent of babies born in Birmingham weigh less than 2.5 kg compared to 7.5 per cent in England. Low birth weight is as high as 29 per cent in some super output areas.
- Birmingham has high rates of perinatal and infant mortality. The infant mortality rate is 7.7 per cent compared to the England average of 4.7 per cent. Rates are significantly higher in ethnic minority groups.
- Breast feeding initiation is low at 68.1 per cent compared to 74.6 per cent nationally.
- Obesity is a key issue in Birmingham, 11.2 per cent of 4-5 year olds are obese which places Birmingham just outside the top 20 per cent of local authorities in terms of obesity for children. Black and Black-British children are the most overweight or obese. Obesity has a direct link to many other illnesses including Type 2 Diabetes, some cancers and heart and liver disease.
- Birmingham children were less likely to participate in at least three hours of sport than in England as a whole.
- The majority of hospital admissions for accidents are in the 0-4 age group and from those with a low socio-economic background.
- The social gradient for hospital admissions of 2-19 year olds is significantly greater in deprived wards.
- The percentage of children in Birmingham aged 4-5 years with decayed or filled teeth is higher than the national average.