Rush of the titans: supersize secondary schools for surging population

The Guardian is reporting that a growing breed of  “titan” schools – supersize secondaries –  are being rolled out in response to demand for places caused by increased birth rates.

…Like many other schools this year, Sydney Russell [in Dagenhamm] received more applications than ever before. Just under 1,500 children applied, of which almost a third made it their first choice. Though the school is one of the biggest in the country, with a 12-form entry offering 360 places in year 7, many families will still be disappointed to find they have not got their preference.

Roger Leighton was head of Sydney Russell until last October and has overseen the massive expansion programme with a new £2.4m block plus a £25m rebuilding programme funded by the now defunct Building Schools for the Future programme.

When he was a boy he went to a grammar school with just 500 pupils. Now he’s firmly of the opinion that big is beautiful.

“It doesn’t make any difference if you are 10-form entry or 12-form entry,” he says. “There was a trend where some parents worried about their child in a big school – ‘Oh, my child is going to get lost in this great big school with lots of kids’. But [with record applications this year] these parents are clearly not put off. They are desperate to get in.”

Leighton is now chief executive of Partnership Learning, the multi-academy trust of which Sydney Russell is the lead school, and is helping the east London borough of Barking and Dagenham to create enough spaces for its burgeoning school-age population…

Sydney Russell, meanwhile, is expanding further. It is opening its own three-form-entry primary section, which will feed into the secondary school, taking the total up to a staggering 2,700 pupils.

He says the size of the school allows for economies of scale. There may be 1,900 pupils but you need only one headteacher, one business manager, one facilities manager. As a result there’s more money to spend elsewhere – he says Sydney Russell has “the best IT in the country” – and the curriculum offer is much broader, particularly in sixth form…

According to Labour, the number of titan secondary schools with a pupil population in excess of 1,600 pupils is likely to increase by more than a third over this parliament and the number with more than 2,000 could increase by two-thirds…

More at Rush of the titans: supersize secondary schools for surging population


The rise of so-called titan schools has cropped up several times recently and always draws a mixed reaction.

If you are a teacher or parent involved with a very large school, how do you now see the pros and cons?

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  1. The_Data_Adonis

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  2. VictoriaJaquiss

    It’s a sad day that children are firmly placed somewhere down a list that starts with “economies of scale” . Children need personal attention, care, people looking out for them, to feel safe. We had this ludicrous private education company called Education Leeds at the beginning of the 00s which dedicated itself to closing and merging about 50 local schools, for reason of “surplus places”. This also involved a lot of substandard new builds, and contracts handed out to whoever, which the Institute of Architecture itself lamented as an “opportunity lost”. A local school for a local child. Too much to ask?

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