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Is your school full? Use our searchable tables to find out

A crowded high school assembly illustrating school capacity issues
There are currently 66 schools across the north and north-east over 90% capacity.

Is your school one of the dozens across the north and north-east in danger of being overcrowded?

According to local authority data, 66 schools across the north and north-east are currently over 90% capacity. Of those, 19 are above their stated capacity.

And some of those schools are projected to continue growing, with schools in Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen and Highland Council expected to reach 130% and even 170% capacity by 2026.

Councils use school roll and capacity data to shape a number of decisions. These include deciding when and where to build a new school, whether a school should be mothballed or closed permanently, or whether to redraw catchment zones.

Councils also use information on incoming housing and other demographics to create forecasts of what a school will look like in the future.

We’ve collected school capacity data from the Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen City, Highland and Moray Councils.

Use our searchable school capacity checkers to see not only where your school stands this year, but how the local authority expects things to change in five years’ time.

We’re looking into capacity issues at some specific schools already.

See a school or report that you think we should investigate? Get in touch with us at

A note on north and north-east of Scotland school capacities

We’ve chosen to categorise schools as spare capacity (0-79%), low capacity (80-89%) and nearly full or over capacity (90% and above). The labels are ours, but we used reports and input from each local authority to set each range.

Keep in mind that school occupancy is just one factor that determines a school’s effective capacity. Building condition and suitability and individual student needs also play a part.

Also, note that the island local authorities don’t track school capacities in the same way. Look for more information on island schools in a future story.

Now, use the search feature to find your school, or click on a column to sort by name or capacity level.

Aberdeenshire Council School Capacities

In Aberdeenshire Council, 22 of 131 schools are currently at 90% capacity or higher in 2021. Another three are above 100%.

That means approximately 19% of the council’s schools are currently at or near capacity.

By 2026, council forecasts estimate that 10 schools will be over 100% capacity.

Balmedie Primary School is highlighted by the fact checker and projected to be over capacity in a few years.
Balmedie Primary School is a target for local campaigners who want to address capacity issues.

Anne-Marie Davies-Macleod, Aberdeenshire Council’s head of resources and performance, said that the council aims for 80% occupancy in secondary schools.

She said that the council also distinguishes between what she called ‘published’ capacities and ‘working’ capacities. The former only counts space in the main school building, while the working capacity includes extensions and non-linked units.

The council works with schools to make sure they have enough space. This sometimes means limiting who can attend, she said.

“We set annual limits and reserved spaces and will not accept placing requests from those out of area when we need to limit numbers.”

Aberdeen City Council School Capacities

In Aberdeen City, the most recent council records show that 12 schools are above capacity this year, with another nine above 90%.

With 61 schools in the area, that puts 34% at or near capacity. One of the schools listed as overcapacity is the under-construction Countesswells Primary.

A council spokeswoman said that the current capacity and forecast for Countesswells are based on capacity at the former Hazlehead School building, where pupils will be housed until Countesswells’s planned opening in Summer 2023.

The new school will have capacity for 434 pupils.

A spokeswoman for Aberdeen City said that they do not consider any schools overcrowded. They assess each school on a case-by-case basis, working with school leaders and implementing temporary accommodation to increase space in the short-term where necessary.

“We work closely with head teachers to monitor pupil numbers each year and put the appropriate measures in place to ensure there is sufficient space to accommodate the pupils expected to be attending each school in the following year.”

Moray Council School Capacities

In Moray, Buckie High (90%) is the only school in our highest capacity category in 2021. Council forecasts suggest that Elgin High, Elgin Academy and Linkwood Primary could join Buckie by 2026.

A Moray Council spokesman said that many Moray schools operate effectively up to 90% of physical capacity.

The spokesman also listed a number of strategies the council uses to address overcrowding issues.

  • Rezoning catchment areas to take advantage of space at nearby schools
  • Temporary interventions and additions to accommodate higher than 90% capacity for a limited period
  • Increasing the school’s capacity permanently with an extension or reconfiguration
  • New-build school project
Buckie High School, one of the Moray schools highlighted as nearing capacity on the school capacity checker
Buckie High School is one of the few Moray schools nearing capacity.

The Moray Learning Estate Strategy is also under way to analyse school capacities over the next decade.

Moray Council projects school rolls further into the year 2029 and we asked about three schools expected to grow every year during that period.

Here’s what a council spokesman had to say about each:

  • Buckie High (90% capacity in 2021, projected to reach 97% by 2029): Moray Council is considering options to add space for another 200 students, including a major refurbishment or a new build school by 2029.
  • Elgin High (93%, projected to reach 105% by 2029): The council is planning an extension at Elgin High to accommodate an extra 200 students by 2026.
  • Linkwood (68%, projected to reach 94% by 2029): The council is considering rezoning, adding an extension to Linkwood or building a new school.

Highland Council School Capacities

There are seven schools above capacity according to Highland Council records, with another 12 at or above 90%. That’s just above 9% of the 203 schools in the area.

Culloden Academy is one of the over capacity schools highlighted by the school capacity checker
Culloden Academy is one of the schools targeted for expansion. Picture by SANDY McCOOK

Looking ahead, more schools are expected to join that highest capacity category. Council forecasts show that by 2026, 14 schools could be over capacity, with another 17 at or above 90%.

A Highland Council spokeswoman said that the council targets each school’s listed planning capacity as the optimum level.

But factors such as whether a school is a primary or secondary school, school size, how much outside space is available on campus and if there is extra space in the building can also affect what the council considers an efficient capacity.

Strategies for addressing overcrowding depend on how long a school is expected to be above capacity, how much more space a school will need and the impact on dining, physical education and other facilities.

“Measures include considering refusal of placing requests, carrying out internal alterations or extensions and using modular classrooms permanently or temporarily.

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