SEVERAL secondary schools in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole are full or over capacity, figures reveal.

The Association of School and College Leaders said a record rate of overcrowded schools nationally is being driven by increased demand for secondary places, compounded by "perceptions linked to Ofsted reports".

Department for Education data shows that five secondary schools in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole were at or above full capacity as of May 1 last year.

In 2018-19, the most recent comparable year due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions, there were no overcrowded schools.

It meant 7,544 pupils in the area were affected by overcrowded schools last year, among around 880,000 nationwide.

A school is at or in excess of capacity when the number of pupils enrolled is greater than or equal to its number of places.

In Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, three secondary schools were four per cent over capacity, the busiest in the area.

Councillor Nicola Greene, portfolio holder for council priorities and delivery said: “The council has a duty to ensure sufficient school places, and we take every child seriously and we aim to maximise their potential.

“Schools are deemed overcrowded when numbers physically exceed the roll by just one or two children per year group. This is the case in three out of five secondary schools identified in the BCP area.

“I’d like to reassure parents and carers that there are circumstances in law which may give rise to the admissions of children to school above the published admission number.

"This includes areas such as: outcome of school admission appeals, in-year admission of children deemed vulnerable and referrals made through the Fair Access Protocol.

“We are continuing to work in partnership with all schools to maximise the achievement of parental preferences and provide local places for local children.”

The Education Policy Institute said overcrowding increases the average class size, placing additional demands on teachers and has implications for admissions.

Despite the increase in overcrowded secondary schools, just 17 per cent of English primaries were at or over capacity last year, the lowest rate since records began in 2009-10.

This included 13 in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, down from 16 in 2018-19.