The council has said there is ‘no concern’ over pupil numbers which have dropped well below capacity at certain schools across Ceredigion.

A response to a freedom of information request available online shows that secondary schools such as Penweddig in Aberystwyth and Aberaeron are seriously struggling to fill all their available spaces.

Penweddig has a total capacity of 1,070 spaces, according to the data released in March, but has only filled 621 this academic year. Aberaeron only enrolled 585 students of nearly 1,000 available spots.

But Ceredigion County Council said the numbers had increased since 2019. The same could not be said for all schools across the county however, with numbers declining from 9,569 to 9,463 in the last five years.

Primary schools such as Syr John Rhys in Ponterwyd, Penllwyn in Capel Bangor and Craig Yr Wylfa in Borth have seen pupil numbers dwindle to around half their capacity.

Borth is a particularly serious case where it has filled only 28 of its 74 available spaces – while Syr John Rhys only has 23 pupils (of a 39 capacity).

A Ceredigion County Council spokesperson said: “Some schools within the authority are experiencing a drop in numbers and are considerably under capacity.

“The Welsh Government School Census report (January 2023) noted that there were 469,887 pupils in local authority-maintained schools, down 1,244 compared with February 2022.

“The falling numbers are reflected within Ceredigion with generally fewer pupils across the sectors.

“The education authority is continually reviewing the situation across all schools to secure the best provision for all pupils. There are considerable challenges nationally with regards to funding across all authorities.”

Meanwhile, some primary schools such as Llwyn Yr Eos in Penparcau and Aberporth are well over their capacity. Llwyn Yr Eos has 252 pupils but can only cater to about 219, the data shows. Aberporth has a surplus of 25 pupils.

Councils, especially rural ones, have had to make controversial decisions about closing small schools for reasons including declining pupil numbers and difficulties recruiting staff – with many smaller schools in Ceredigion closing in the last several years.

A school with less than 10 pupils in Gwynedd, Ysgol Felinwnda, near the villages of Saron and Dinas, is set to be closed by councillors.

In Wales, small schools are those with fewer than 91 pupils according to the Education (Small Schools) (Wales) Order 2014. Previously if pupil numbers fell below 10, the school could be discontinued.

The Small Schools Manifesto briefing notes from May last year says research shows that small schools are twice as likely to close as the national average.

The latest birth rate figures for Ceredigion show that, in 2021, 536 births were recorded in the county, up from 499 in 2020, but a drop of more than 10 per cent compared with the average number of births per year between 2013 and 2019. This downward trend is likely having an effect on schools’ intake.